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COMMONWEALTH EX REL. MAISENHELDER v. RUNDLE. (03/17/64)

March 17, 1964

COMMONWEALTH EX REL. MAISENHELDER, APPELLANT,
v.
RUNDLE.



Appeal, No. 98, Jan. T., 1964, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, Miscellaneous No. 12117, 1963, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. Norman S. Maisenhelder v. Alfred T. Rundle, Superintendent. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

Robert W. Lentz, for appellant.

Alfred Delduco, Assistant District Attorney, with him Samuel J. Halpren, District Attorney, for appellee.

Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'brien and Roberts, JJ.

Author: Eagen

[ 414 Pa. Page 12]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE EAGEN

On March 28, 1953, the defendant-appellant was arrested for the fatal shooting of his wife. On April 1, 1953, he was given a preliminary hearing before a justice of the peace where he entered a general plea of guilty to the charge of murder. At this hearing, he was not represented by counsel, nor was such representation requested. On May 11, 1953, he was indicted on the charge of murder. On May 25, 1953, the court appointed two lawyers to represent him. On November

[ 414 Pa. Page 1330]

, 1953, he was arraigned before the court in the presence of his counsel and entered a plea of guilty to the indictment. Testimony on behalf of the Commonwealth and the defendant was presented before a court of two judges on December 17, 18, and 23, 1953. The record of the proceedings at the preliminary hearing before the magistrate was not entered in evidence. The admission of guilt before the magistrate was not used against the defendant at this hearing. On March 8, 1954, the court adjudged him guilty of murder in the first degree and fixed the punishment at life imprisonment. No appeal from the judgment was filed.

On July 11, 1963, the defendant-appellant filed in the court below a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Counsel was appointed by the court to represent him. After hearing, the court denied the writ and dismissed the proceedings. An appeal from this order is now before us. No request was ever filed with the court below asking leave to withdraw the plea of guilty; nor has it been or is it now asserted that the defendant was not guilty of the charge.

The single question now presented for determination is: Was the appellant denied constitutional guarantees when he was given a preliminary hearing before the committing magistrate without the benefit of representation by counsel?

It has long been the law in Pennsylvania that a defendant need not be provided with counsel at the time of his arrest or immediately thereafter: Commonwealth v. Agoston, 364 Pa. 464, 72 A.2d 575 (1950); Com. ex rel. Carey v. Prison Keeper, 370 Pa. 604, 88 A.2d 904 (1952), cert. denied, 345 U.S. 930, 73 S.Ct. 793 (1953). The act of the legislature of March 22, 1907, P.L. 31, as amended by the Act of April 28, 1961, P.L. ...


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