Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, Oct. T., 1963, No. 671, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. Elmer Carl Linde v. James F. Maroney, Superintendent.
Elmer Carl Linde, appellant, in propria persona.
Edward B. Doran, Assistant District Attorney, and Richard E. McCormick, District Attorney, for appellee.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Concurring Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts.
On September 6, 1958, the appellant, Elmer Carl Linde, was convicted by a jury of murder in the first degree. He was represented during the proceedings by court-appointed counsel. Punishment was fixed at life imprisonment. A motion for a new trial was dismissed and judgment of sentence imposed in accordance with the verdict. No appeal was filed.
On December 12, 1963, an action in habeas corpus was instituted which the lower court dismissed without hearing. An appeal from that order is presently before us.
The evidence at trial established that the appellant and one Ruth Nolan were close personal friends; that she was desirous of ending their relationship and requested him to remain away from her home; that on June 13, 1958, after consuming a quantity of alcohol and stealing a gun from his rooming house, the appellant went to the home shared by Ruth Nolan and her mother about 1:30 o'clock in the morning; that he tried to shoot her by firing the gun through a bedroom window; that he then broke into the house and fired five bullets into her body causing wounds from which death resulted in minutes; that in the melee, he himself received a serious gunshot wound in the side of his body.
Appellant first complains that he was not afforded the assistance of counsel at the hearing before the
committing magistrate. The record discloses that at this hearing the accused plead "not guilty", and that nothing that occurred at that time was introduced in evidence at trial on the indictment or in any way entered into the jury's determination of his guilt or innocence. Under the circumstances, no violation of constitutional rights occurred. See, Commonwealth ex rel. Maisenhelder v. Rundle, 414 Pa. 11, 198 A.2d 565 (1964); Commonwealth ex rel. Herge v. Rundle, 415 Pa. 36, 202 A.2d 24 (1964).
Appellant next complains that a coroner's inquest was conducted in his absence which violated his constitutional right to be present "at every stage of the proceedings." The record does not disclose whether or not such an inquest took place, but assuming such to be the fact, the complaint is without merit.
In the instant case, the appellant was taken before a magistrate following the issuance of a warrant, given a preliminary hearing and held for the grand jury. The coroner's inquest was not any part of the proceedings whereby the appellant was brought to justice. It was not an adversary proceeding and, at most, it served as an aid in the detection of crime and was merely advisory to those charged with the administration of the criminal law. See, Commonwealth ex rel. Czako v. Maroney, 412 Pa. 448, 194 A.2d 867 (1963), and Commonwealth ex rel. Tanner v. Ashe, 365 Pa. 419, 76 A.2d 210 (1950). The appellant suffered no prejudice as a result and his rights were not infringed upon because he did not have the opportunity to be present: See, Act of August 9, 1955, P. L. 323, § 1248, 16 P.S. § 1248: "The coroner may, in his discretion, admit or exclude members of the public from any inquest ...