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COMMONWEALTH EX REL. WALLS v. MARONEY (01/05/65)

decided: January 5, 1965.

COMMONWEALTH EX REL. WALLS, APPELLANT,
v.
MARONEY



Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, April T., 1964, No. 3011, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. Eugene D. Walls v. James F. Maroney, Superintendent.

COUNSEL

Eugene D. Walls, appellant, in propria persona.

Louis Abromson, Assistant District Attorney, and Robert W. Duggan, District Attorney, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Mr. Justice Cohen dissents.

Author: Eagen

[ 416 Pa. Page 291]

On October 21, 1954, the appellant, Eugene David Walls, was convicted by a jury of murder in the first degree with punishment fixed at life imprisonment. At trial, he was represented by court-appointed counsel, one of whom had previously served as a common pleas judge and an assistant district attorney. No post trial motions were filed, nor was an appeal taken from the judgment of sentence.

On March 11, 1964, an action in habeas corpus was instituted. Court-appointed counsel again represented the appellant in this proceeding. After answer filed, the court below denied the writ without hearing. An appeal from this order is presently before us.

The uncontradicted evidence presented by the Commonwealth at trial warranted the jury in finding that during the evening of November 19, 1953, the appellant Walls and one Oscar Brewster accidentally met for the first time in a bar in Butler, Pennsylvania;

[ 416 Pa. Page 292]

    that being without funds, they decided to make some easy money; that they then stole an automobile in Butler and drove to Brewster's home to secure some guns; that following this, armed with a .22 caliber rifle and a .32 caliber revolver, they drove the stolen automobile to a tavern in Sewickley Township, Allegheny County; that after being in the tavern a short period of time, Brewster, brandishing the revolver, announced "this is a stickup," and directed the patrons to turn over their wallets; that some of those present placed wallets and money on the bar; that at or about this time, Walls walked out of the tavern and entered the stolen automobile parked in front; that as Brewster attempted to pick up the wallets and the money, one of the patrons knocked the gun out of his hand, and with the help of another patron started to struggle with and pummel Brewster; that as the struggle continued immediately inside the front entrance, the appellant Walls, still seated outside in the automobile, picked up the rifle, pointed it through the automobile window in the direction of the front door of the tavern, and pulled the trigger; that the discharged bullet from Wall's rifle struck the head of one of the patrons engaged in the struggle, causing the injury which resulted in his death on November 26th, seven days later.

In the confusion that followed, Brewster and Walls escaped in the stolen automobile and drove to Tennessee. They returned to Butler a few days later, and abandoned the automobile in a wooded area after they had attempted to set it on fire to destroy any fingerprints or other telltale evidence. The automobile was located by the police on November 24th.

None of those present in the tavern at the time of the holdup knew the identity of Walls or Brewster. After days of police investigation, the finger of suspicion pointed at Brewster and he was taken into custody on November 30th. Brewster ...


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