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COMMONWEALTH EX REL. WILKES v. MARONEY (09/27/66)

decided: September 27, 1966.

COMMONWEALTH EX REL. WILKES, APPELLANT,
v.
MARONEY



Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County, June T., 1965, No. 1437, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. John Wilkes, Sr. v. James F. Maroney, Superintendent.

COUNSEL

John Wilkes, Sr., appellant, in propria persona.

William J. Franks, Assistant District Attorney, and John R. Hoye, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Cohen took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Roberts

[ 423 Pa. Page 115]

John Wilkes, Sr., was tried by a jury and convicted of murder in the second degree in the Court of Oyer and Terminer of Fayette County on December 14, 1961. We affirmed the conviction on April 21, 1964. Commonwealth v. Wilkes, 414 Pa. 246, 199 A.2d 411 (1964). Certiorari was denied by the Supreme Court of the United States on December 7, 1964, 379 U.S. 939, 85 S. Ct. 344 (1964).

On June 22, 1965, Wilkes filed a habeas corpus petition in the court of common pleas which was denied without hearing. Now before us is the appeal from that denial. After reviewing the petition and the record, we affirm the denial of the court below.

At appellant's trial he readily admitted shooting and killing his twenty year old son Ronald, while the latter was attempting to break into appellant's house near midnight. This evidence was corroborated by witnesses present at the shooting, one of whom was the defendant's twelve year old daughter. The evidence most favorable to the Commonwealth further tended to show that present in appellant's house on the night of the shooting was a woman with whom both the deceased and the appellant had had sexual relations and about whom appellant and deceased had argued on a previous occasion, that appellant and deceased had had in the recent past several confrontations over matters not related to the woman, during which appellant had struck and threatened the deceased, that the deceased was larger by only ten pounds than the appellant and that when appellant reached for his shotgun just prior to the shooting, he knew that the intruder at his door was his son Ronald. Defense strategy at trial was focused on a plea of self-defense.

Appellant contends that the statements made to police by him after his arrest were involuntary and were

[ 423 Pa. Page 116]

    introduced at trial in violation of his constitutional rights. This claim is clearly barred by the defense's failure to interpose any objection or, in any other way, to apprise the court of a claim that coerciveness surrounded the statements. E.g., Commonwealth ex rel. Fox v. Maroney, 417 Pa. 308, 207 A.2d 810 (1965).

Relying on Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478, 84 S. Ct. 1758 (1964), appellant asserts that he is entitled to relief because of the introduction at trial of statements he made to police without the advice of counsel. While it is true that Escobedo was decided on June 22, 1964, almost three years after appellant's trial, appellant's conviction was not then "final" as we defined that word in Commonwealth v. Negri, 419 Pa. 117, 128-29, 213 A.2d 670, 675-76 (1965), and thus under Negri appellant would have been entitled to raise an Escobedo claim. In the meanwhile, however, the Supreme Court of the United States has decided that Escobedo need only be applied to defendants whose trials began after June 22, 1964. Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719, 723, 86 S. Ct. 1772, 1775 (1966). Since our finality holding in Negri was solely premised on our projection as to the category of cases to which the Supreme Court intended the Escobedo rules must apply and since that category has now received a different, and definitive delineation which does not encompass appellant's case, appellant is not entitled to raise an Escobedo claim. Commonwealth v. Cheeks, 423 Pa. 67, 223 A.2d 291 (1966).

Appellant claims that he did not receive constitutionally adequate counsel. The record clearly indicates that at trial appellant was defended by two attorneys, one of whom had forty years experience including a number of years as an assistant district attorney. Moreover, a reading of the record does not ...


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