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COMMONWEALTH EX REL. JOHNSON v. SHOVLIN. (06/13/63)

June 13, 1963

COMMONWEALTH EX REL. JOHNSON, APPELLANT,
v.
SHOVLIN.



Appeal, No. 40, April T., 1963, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, July T., 1962, No. 441, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Ernest Calvin Johnson. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

Ernest Calvin Johnson, appellant, in propria persona.

William Claney Smith, Assistant District Attorney, and Edward C. Boyle, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Before Rhodes, P.j., Ervin, Wright, Woodside, Watkins, Montgomery, and Flood, JJ.

Author: Rhodes

[ 201 Pa. Super. Page 333]

OPINION BY RHODES, P.J.

This is an appeal by Ernest Calvin Johnson, the relator, from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County refusing relator's petition for a writ of habeas corpus to secure his release from Farview State Hospital.

The relator was convicted of the crime of armed robbery at No. 28, February Sessions, 1943, Court of Oyer and Terminer of Allegheny County, and sentenced by Judge DITHRICH on February 24, 1943, to a term of not less than five years nor more than ten years in the Western State Penitentiary. Being of the opinion that relator should be cared for in a hospital for mental diseases, Dr. A. J. Staab, the resident physician of Western State Penitentiary, filed a petition in the Court of Quarter Sessions of Allegheny County requesting such commitment. The court appointed two qualified physicians who examined relator and reported that he was suffering from "psychosis with psychopathic personality-paranoid state." On March 16, 1949, Judge SOFFEL entered an order committing relator to Farview State Hospital. Relator, who has been an inmate of Farview for the past thirteen years, filed the present petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County on April 11, 1962. On the same day, President Judge McNAUGHER of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County granted a rule upon Dr. John P. Shovlin, Superintendent of Farview State Hospital, to show cause why the writ of habeas corpus should not issue, with notice to the District Attorney of Allegheny County. On June 29, 1962, Edward C. Boyle, District Attorney of Allegheny County, filed a detailed answer to relator's petition. Included in the answer was the sworn affidavit of Dr. Shovlin, Superintendent of Farview State Hospital, stating that in his opinion relator "is suffering from a mental illness diagnosed, Schizophrenic Reaction;

[ 201 Pa. Super. Page 334]

Paranoid Type," which "so lessens his capacity to use normal customary self-control in the conduct of his affairs and social relations as to make it advisable for him to be under hospital care," and that relator "is possessed of criminal tendencies and has evidenced a capacity for violent assaultiveness on others and requires additional hospitalization at the Farview State Hospital." Under date of July 19, 1962, the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County discharged the rule and dismissed the petition without hearing.

Relator's original commitment to Farview was under The Mental Health Act of July 11, 1923, P.L. 998, which, like the Act of June 12, 1951, P.L. 533, 50 PS ยง 1071, provided for the transfer of prisoners to a hospital for mental diseases under proper order of court. Relator's commitment to Farview was in strict compliance with the Act of 1923 then in effect, and his present petition sets forth no grounds which would invalidate his original commitment. The Act of 1923 was repealed and superseded by the Act of 1951.

Relator's allegation that he is being held under an ex post facto law is without foundation. As stated, his commitment was under the Act of 1923 and not under the Act of 1951 which is now applicable. Likewise, his commitment in 1949 was under the order of the court entered by authority of the Act of 1923, and his confinement is not under a "bill of attainder" as relator now alleges. The petition for a commission to determine petitioner's mental health and the proceedings thereunder is not a criminal prosecution but a collateral proceeding to determine the mental health of the person involved for his benefit or for the benefit of the public or both. Com. v. Bechtel, 384 ...


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