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UNITED STATES EX REL. WRIGHT v. MYERS

March 20, 1967

UNITED STATES of America ex rel. Eugene WRIGHT
v.
David N. MYERS, Superintendent, State Correctional Institution, Graterford, Pennsylvania



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CLARY

 CLARY, Chief Judge.

 Eugene Wright (hereinafter relator) filed his first Petition for Habeas Corpus in this Court in 1956, asserting various grounds, including police brutality, as the basis for the writ. After full evidentiary hearing, this Petition was dismissed. Thereafter he filed two additional Petitions for Habeas Corpus, both of which were denied without hearing, the first because relator was not a pauper, and the second because he did not present the Escobedo question to the State Court. The instant Petition was filed after exhaustion of State remedies.

 The present Petition is grounded on the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments right to counsel, retroactively interpreted in Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 83 S. Ct. 792, 9 L. Ed. 2d 799 (1963), which requires that an accused be given the assistance of counsel at every critical stage of a criminal prosecution. It is relator's claim that at critical stages of his prosecution, he was not afforded the protection of assistance of counsel.

 For many years the Courts of Quarter Sessions and Oyer and Terminer of the County of Luzerne, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, followed a practice provided by the Act of April 15, 1907, P.L. 62, § 1 (19 P.S. § 241) *fn1" which permitted a defendant to indicate whether or not he intended to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, and waive the presentation of a Bill of Indictment to the Grand Jury. The form permitted by the Act and used in the instant case was rubber-stamped on the back of the Indictment and read as follows:

 
"Now, 9 day of June, 1953, being charged with the crime named in the within indictment, I hereby notify Louis G. Feldman, District Attorney, that I am willing to enter a plea of . . . guilty without the presentation of bill of indictment before a Grand Jury, and I hereby request and direct that my plea be entered on record.
 
(Signed) Eugene Wright
 
Defendant."

 This waiver, entered on each back of 22 Bills of Indictment, Numbers 178 to 200, June Sessions, 1953, Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Jail Delivery, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, and signed by relator, was reinforced by his signature to the following printed declaration on the back of each Bill:

 
"Now 9 day of June, A.D. one thousand nine hundred and 53 Defendant pleads guilty et de hoc; District Attorney similiter et issue.
 
(Signed) Eugene Wright "

 Both forms were signed by relator, without counsel, on June 9, 1953. Thereafter, he was brought into Court for sentencing and the following colloquy occurred:

 
"Eugene Wright, defendant, examined by Mr. Hourigan (Assistant District Attorney):
 
Q. Mr. Eugene Wright, in Indictments 178 to 188, June Sessions, inclusive, you are charged with crimes of burglary and arson; and in Indictments Nos. 190 to 200 you are charged with the crime of burglary and larceny. You have already signed waiver of presentment to the Grand Jury and you have already entered a plea of guilty on all these charges; is that correct?
 
A. That is correct.
 
Q. And you have indicated this by signing in the rear of the indictments and in the front of the indictments.
 
A. I did.
 
Q. You are willingly entering that ...

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