The District Attorney's Office had eagerly awaited the ruling. As The Inquirer reported in December, prosecutors have given legal notice of their intent to appeal 27 of Patrick's rulings in cases in which she said police had lacked legal grounds to arrest suspected gun criminals.
In early 2010, Patrick began presiding over the Philadelphia court system's Gun Court, a specialty court founded to focus on illegal-gun-possession cases with the goal of stemming firearms violence in the city.
Prosecutors said they had appealed at most five rulings made in the prior two years by the previous two Gun Court judges.
The Superior Court panel's nine-page opinion was the first dealing with her gun rulings. Assistant District Attorney Regina M. Oberholzer, who won the case as a member of the office's appeals team, said it was pleased at the outcome.
Pedraza's lawyer, Joseph Santaguida, said he would probably not appeal the case further. Absent an appeal, the case can go to trial.
"We thought the judge was correct," Santaguida said. "I think she tries to do the right thing. Obviously, from the defense standpoint, we like it. Before with the other judges, it seemed like we had no chance."
Patrick, a former civil and criminal defense lawyer elected to the bench in 2003, has declined to discuss the cases. Lawyer Samuel Stretton, who has served as her spokesman, said she worked hard to reach decisions that often hinged on complex legal and factual issues.
"I don't think you can judge her by a case that was reversed," Stretton said. "Every judge gets reversed."
Pedraza, 28, has been arrested six times since turning 18 and convicted three times. In 2000, he was sentenced to 11 months in prison for drug dealing.
In the case heard by Patrick, police closed in on Pedraza and other men June 14, 2009, after dispatchers relayed a report that a group armed with guns was standing on Hope Street near Indiana Avenue.
As police approached, Pedraza tried to get away, first walking and then breaking into a run, authorities said. They said police also had seen him adjust what they thought could be a gun tucked into his pants.
He dumped the two guns as he ran, according to authorities. They said he had thrown a bulky Tec-9 pistol with a large clip onto a rooftop. The other gun, they said, went crashing through the back window of a parked truck.
In her opinion, Patrick stressed that the arresting officer had not actually seen a gun because Pedraza's T-shirt had been draped over what he had been touching.
Moreover, she suggested that the officer's judgment had not yet been battle-tested, since had been on the force only two years and had made only two previous gun arrests.
The Superior Court panel, however, appeared to give full credit to the officer's observations that Pedraza "may have been manipulating a firearm hidden in his waistband."
The panel also noted that Pedraza had begun to walk away after he spotted police. This "evasive behavior," the appeals court said, gave police further good cause to suspect him.
In a similar gun case in 2009, the full nine-member Superior Court ruled that such evasive behavior gave police permission to detain a suspect. In the opinion Wednesday, the three-judge panel chided Patrick for failing to take that full-court ruling into account - even though prosecutors had cited the case to her.
Contact staff writer Craig R. McCoy at 215-854-4821 or email@example.com.