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UNITED STATES EX REL. WING v. COMMONWEALTH

March 31, 1950

UNITED STATES ex rel. WING
v.
COMMONWEALTH et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GOURLEY

This is a habeas corpus proceeding by the United States of America on relation of George Wing against Stanley P. Ashe, Warden, Western State Penitentiary, et al.

George Wing, the petitioner, on November 12, 1929 being arraigned on a charge of murder, pleaded guilty to an indictment returned at No. 1 November Term, 1929, Court of Quarter Sessions of Erie County, certified to No. 1 November Term, 1929, Court of Oyer and Terminer of Erie County, Pennsylvania.

 Petitioner was charged with the murder of George Lavern Ormsbee, an infant child, who came to his death on August 31, 1929 as a result of a gunshot wound.

 Hearing was held on November 25, 1929 in order to determine the degree of guilt. After the taking of extensive testimony offered by both the Commonwealth and the petitioner, the trial judge adjudicated the petitioner guilty of murder in the first degree and determined the penalty to be life imprisonment. No November 27, 1929 the trial court sentenced the petitioner to the Western State Penitentiary for and during the term of his natural life.

 History of Crime.

 In the early morning of August 31, 1929 petitioner left the home of his mother, near Ormsbee Corssing, Concord Township, Erie County, Pennsylvania, walked to the City of Corry, cashed a pay check, then went to a hardware store and bought a twenty-two calibre Stevens single shot rifle, a box of long cartridges and a piece of stout rope about ten feet long. Later he was seen walking down the railroad track toward the neighborhood where both he and his sister lived. In his hand he had a package which looked as if it might contain a rifle. He then hid in a clump of bushes on the north side of the highway, near the railroad, a short distance from his sister's home. Shortly thereafter Harriet and Clara Ormsbee and the child walked down the road past the defendant. When they were about twenty-five feet away he aimed at his sister and fired the first shot, wounding her in the arm. She dropped a kettle she was carrying, turned about, picked up the child, and ran past the ambush of the defendant whereupon he reloaded the rifle and fired the fatal shot. The child died instantly. The place where the shots were fired was later disclosed by petitioner to the state police officers and one empty shell, of the kind used in the shooting, was found. After the shooting petitioner fled to a nearby woods and there attempted to commit suicide but succeeded only in inflicting a gunshot wound in his neck. When accosted by the state police officer he started to flee but was stopped. He first denied having a gun but later disclosed to the officer where the gun and cartridges were hidden in nearby underbrush. At the scene of the shooting the paper in which the gun had been wrapped by the clerk in the hardware store was found. The rope, bought at the same time, was found in a nearby barn, knotted and tied in a noose. Petitioner was immediately taken to Corry and there made a statement in writing and a second statement was made in Erie. Both of these statements were made under circumstances which indicate that they were wholly voluntary after the petitioner had been warned as to his rights.

 Petitioner contends that he was denied rights given to him under the Constitution of the United States in the following particulars:

 1. That he was denied the right to trial by jury.

 2. That he did not enter a plea of guilty to the indictment in which he was charged with murder, but only intended to enter a plea of guilty to the crime of involuntary manslaughter.

 3. That he was mentally incompetent to understand the nature of his acts-

 (a) at the time of the commission of the crime, and

 (b) at the time the alleged plea of guilty was purported to have been made.

 In passing upon the application for writ of habeas corpus in this court, judicial knowledge will be taken of all records and proceedings in the Courts of Quarter Sessions and Oyer and Terminer of Erie County, Pennsylvania, and the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

 I have also taken judicial knowledge of the records as they exist in the Superior Court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which have ...


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