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UNITED STATES EX REL. WALLS v. RUNDLE

April 14, 1965

UNITED STATES ex rel. Albert H. WALLS
v.
Alfred T. RUNDLE, Superintendent, State Correctional Institution,Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, now David N. Myers, Superintendent, State Correctional Institution, Graterford, Pennsylvania, Substitute Respondent



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BODY

Albert H. Walls filed a petition in this Court and contends that his constitutional rights have been violated. He raises these issues:

1. That he was denied the assistance of counsel at Juvenile Court;

 2. That he was denied the assistance of counsel during the interrogatories by police;

 3. What is the effect of his plea of of guilty to murder generally and his subsequent testimony at the trial?

 Relator raised substantially the same issues in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County (C.P. No. 6, June 1963, No. 5537) in his petition for a writ of habeas corpus which was denied by that court. On appeal to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (414 Pa. 53, 198 A.2d 528) the lower court's dismissal was affirmed.

 A hearing was held before me on the petition, and the testimony of the relator and his mother was taken. On the part of the respondent, three police officers were called and testified.

 From the entire record it appears:

 '* * * that on August 10, 1951, relator went to the home of a friend, one William Sampson, where he met both Sampson and a Marshall Miller. Relator asked them to go with him to commit a robbery. The three of them entered a taxicab, with relator sitting in the front seat and the other two in the rear seat. Relator shot the driver who later died. The three fled and relator was traced through the revolver while attempting to dispose of it.' *fn1"

 Walls was arrested about 11:00 p.m. on October 15, 1951 and signed a confession at 7:20 on October 16, 1951. He was then sixteen years of age (born October 2, 1935). Thereafter on October 15 or 16, 1951 he had a hearing in Juvenile Court before Judge Kelley with no counsel present, when the case was certified to the criminal courts. Since this is not a criminal proceeding, no counsel was required. Holmes' Appeal, 379 Pa. 599, 109 A.2d 523; cert. den. 348 U.S. 973, 75 S. Ct. 535, 99 L. Ed. 757.

 At the Coroner's inquest he was represented by counsel. At arraignment court he was not represented by counsel and he entered a plea of not guilty.

 His plea of guilty, on the advice of counsel, was entered on June 10, 1952, about eight months later.

 '* * * During the course of the hearing on the plea, the trial judge, on two occasions, asked counsel whether he was raising any question relative to the voluntary nature of appellant's confession. Counsel replied, 'No' on both occasions. Consideration of the time which elapsed between the taking of the confession and the entering of the plea together with the positive assertions by counsel that no question was raised on this issue clearly justified the hearing court's conclusion that the plea was not coerced. See United States v. Morin, 265 F.2d 241, 245-246 (3rd Cir. 1959).

 'Moreover, of even greater significance is the fact that appellant, on the advice of counsel, testified at the time the plea was entered and gave an account of the offense in far greater detail than appeared in the statement which he signed. Cf. Com. ex rel. Miller v. Myers, 187 Pa.Super.Ct. 565, 146 A.2d 145 (1958). He related that, on October 10, 1951, in the company of William Sampson and Marshall Miller, while carrying a loaded revolved, he hailed a taxi for the express purpose of robbing the driver. He took the gun from his pocket and directed the driver to pull his cab over, at which point, even taking the testimony in a light most favorable to appellant, the driver hit his brakes and the gun accidentally went off. The bullet struck the driver in the side and penetrated his chest. He died a few hours later.

 'In sentencing appellant, the court below observed, 'His youth is the only thing that moved this Court against the supreme penalty. This crime was inexcusable, wilful, and it took out of our community a young citizen in the prime of his life. If it were not for his age the sentence which we are about to pronounce would be much more [severe].' In doing so, the sentencing court afforded appellant every benefit and advantage that could reasonably be ...


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