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UNITED STATES EX REL. GEISEL v. CLAUDY

February 5, 1951

UNITED STATES ex rel. GEISEL
v.
CLAUDY, Warden



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARSH

M. L. Geisel petitions this court for a writ of habeas corpus and the right to proceed in forma pauperis. Prior to this application he filed petitions in the following courts in the following order:

1. For writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania which court refused to grant the writ in an illuminating opinion recorded in 1949, 165 Pa.Super. 41, 68 A.2d 360.

 2. For writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which denied the writ on the opinion of the Superior Court. 1622 Misc. Docket.

 4. For writ of habeas corpus in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, which denied the writ. 2332 April Term, 1950. The application in the Common Pleas differs from the applications in the appellate courts and in this court in that it does not raise a federal question as grounds for relief.

 We permitted the petitioner to proceed in forma pauperis and granted a rule to show cause. Notice of the rule was required to be served upon the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the District Attorney of Indiana County, Pennsylvania. This service was accomplished. No answer was filed by the Attorney General or by the District Attorney of Indiana County.

 A hearing was held and testimony of the petitioner was taken. This hearing was attended by an assistant district attorney of the County of Allegheny and counsel for the petitioner appointed by this court.

 It appeared that M. L. Geisel was sentenced to the Western State Penitentiary under sentences imposed by the Court of Quarter Sessions of Indiana County on two charges of forgery, said sentences totalling four to ten years beginning June 19, 1941. *fn1" The petitioner was released on parole December 19, 1945 and recommitted April 18, 1946 for parole violation and forging checks. He escaped prison on August 13, 1946; was captured and sentenced for two or five years imprisonment by the Court of Quarter Sessions of Centre County, Pennsylvania. The sentence for escape was to begin at the expiration of the sentences imposed in Indiana County.

 After the hearing, we wrote to the District Attorney of Indiana County to send us the original papers, and also to file an answer. In compliance with this request, the original papers were forwarded to this court but an answer was not filed. The District Attorney stated in this regard that he trusted it would not be necessary to file a formal answer to the petition as the petitioner did not make any allegations in his petition which were capable of answer.

 We then undertook to secure from the Prothonotary of the Supreme and the Superior Courts of Pennsylvania the original applications of the petitioner for writs of habeas corpus and the records in those courts. We also wrote to the Prothonotary of the Court of Common Pleas of Indiana County, requesting the application for the writ which petitioner alleged that he filed in said court on April 27, 1948, and which was denied on May 5, 1948. The Prothonotary replied that 'I can find no record of same.' We then secured from the Prothonotary of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania the application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by the petitioner on March 7, 1950, but not mentioned by him in his application here.

 In the proceedings had in this court petitioner averred and testified that he had been denied counsel at the time he pleaded guilty and was sentenced by the Quarter Sessions Court of Indiana County. He also averred and testified that he had been denied preliminary hearings before the Justices of the Peace before whom the informations had been made on the two charges of forgery; that the court procedure was unfair; that the then district attorney had imposed upon him in procuring his signature to the plea of guilty on the bills of indictment; that he was refused permission to say anything before the court; that he was not given an opportunity to read the bills of indictment; that the district attorney simply slid out two papers from two envelopes and told him to sign, but he did not know what he was signing; that he was under the impression that he was signing papers relating to a parole violation on a prior conviction for forgery in 1938; that when he got into court the judge picked up the two indictments and sentenced him from two to five years on each, same to run consecutively, and before and after doing so, the judge asked no questions. None of this testimony was traversed by answer or by testimony. Petitioner also requested that this court issue subpoenas for various persons including petitioner's brother and wife. It does not appear that these witnesses would corroborate his testimony as to the alleged denial of due process and it is not out province to try the forgery cases on their merits.

 The principal question before this court is whether the applicant has been denied due process.

 In his application to the Superior Court, petitioner tried to convey the impression that he did not know what he was signing when he pleaded guilty, but that he thought that the papers to which he affixed his signature related merely to a violation of parole. His testimony here is to the same effect except he now adds (probably to counter a pointed observation of the Superior Court) that he could not see the words 'Indictment' and 'Forgery,' buth typed in capital letters above his signature, because these papers were slipped just partially from their envelopes and just enough to permit him to sign his name. It is true that the words 'Indictment' and 'Forgery' appear about five inches above his signature, but 1/4 inch above his signature are the words 'Defendant pleads guilty,' and in view of the prisoner's long experience in criminal court, we do not believe he did not know that he was entering such a plea.

 The allegedly defective proceedings before the two Justices of the Peace and the fact that warrants of arrest were not issued (warrants were not included among the original papers sent to us) cannot be considered by this court for the reason that applicant did not complain to the Indiana County Courts concerning the alleged discrepancies. Such objections cannot be raised initially in a habeas corpus proceeding especially when it is not shown that they ...


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