Findings of Fact
1. The petitioner, Adolph Priester, pleaded guilty in the Court of Quarter Sessions of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, to the District Attorney's Indictments at Nos. 445, 446 and 447, February Sessions 1947, charging forgery and uttering checks.
2. On February 27, 1947, petitioner was sentenced on Indictment at No. 445 'to pay a fine of 6 1/4 cents to County, pay costs of prosecution and undergo imprisonment for not less than five years or more than ten years in the Western Penitentiary and stand committed, effective as of February 18, 1947.' Sentence was suspended on Indictments Nos. 446 and 447, by reason of the sentence imposed at No. 445.
3. In October 1948, the petitioner filed an application for writ of habeas corpus in the Common Pleas Court of Allegheny Courty, Pennsylvania. The Court refused the writ without granting a hearing.
4. No appeal was taken from the Common Pleas Court's denial of the writ, but in May of 1949, the prisoner filed an original petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
5. This petition alleged that the sentence imposed by the Court of Quarter Sessions was illegal for the reason that the petitioner had not signed the District Attorney's bills, he had not waived presentment to and indictment by the Grand Jury, and his right to trial by jury, and also that he was denied the right to be represented by counsel.
6. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania upon receiving the Commonwealth's answer to the rule, refused the writ without granting the petitioner a hearing, and without writing an opinion.
7. After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied the writ, the petitioner did not seek certiorari from the Supreme Court of the United States.
8. In August 1949, the petitioner filed an application for writ of habeas corpus in this Court, setting forth substantially the same grounds as were presented to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
9. This Court issued a rule to show cause, appointed counsel to represent the prisoner, and granted him a hearing on his petition.
10. At the hearing, the petitioner abandoned the state grounds set forth in his petition and urged as the sole ground for the granting of the writ, the state court's denial of his right to be represented by counsel.
11. The petitioner was forty-seven years of age at the time he was sentenced by the Court of Quarter Sessions.
12. There were no intricate or complex legal questions involved in the criminal proceeding. The petitioner was not a stranger in criminal court, having been sentenced on several previous occasions.
13. The petitioner understood the nature of the charge against him, and of his own volition, waived indictment by the Grand Jury and pleaded guilty to the charge.
14. The petitioner's formal education consisted of five grades of elementary school; his understanding of the questions asked and the quality of his testimony clearly showed that his general knowledge was such as to enable him to understandingly plead guilty to the charges.
15. Petitioner neither requested counsel nor was he offered counsel by the state court.
16. Petitioner admitted in this Court that he was guilty of the crimes for which he was sentenced, but urged that because the state court did not provide him with counsel, he had been denied due process of law, contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment.
Conclusions of Law
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in denying the writ, decided a Federal question.
After Pennsylvania's highest appellate court has passed upon the Federal question in a habeas corpus proceeding, the next step in the normal procedure is to the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, and not to the Federal District Court for a writ of habeas corpus.
The fact that the defendant was not provided with counsel by the Pennsylvania trial court does not mean that the proceedings violated the due legal procedure required by the Fourteenth Amendment.
The circumstances in the instant case,- the age and general understanding of defendant, the simple issues involved, the defendant's understanding of the charge to which he pleaded, in addition to the petitioner's admission of guilt before this Court, are not such as render the state court's proceedings invalid because the defendant was not represented by counsel.
The petition for writ of habeas corpus should be denied.
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