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COMMONWEALTH EX REL. SPENSKY v. MARONEY (03/21/67)

decided: March 21, 1967.

COMMONWEALTH EX REL. SPENSKY, APPELLANT,
v.
MARONEY



Appeal from order of Superior Court, April T., 1966, No. 107, reversing order of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Oct. T., 1964, No. 3605, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. Edward Spensky v. Robert Duggan, District Attorney, and James F. Maroney, Superintendent.

COUNSEL

Hubert I. Teitelbaum, with him Martin M. Sheinman, for appellant.

Edwin J. Martin, Assistant District Attorney, with him Robert W. Duggan, District Attorney, for appellees.

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

Author: Cohen

[ 425 Pa. Page 78]

This is an appeal under Rule 69 from the order of the Superior Court reversing the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, which had granted relator's petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

On June 19, 1940, relator entered a plea of nolo contendere to charges of armed robbery and assault with intent to commit armed robbery. He was sentenced to undergo imprisonment on each charge for a period of five to ten years, to be served consecutively. Relator was committed on May 24, 1940 and was released on parole exactly ten years later. On August 3,

[ 425 Pa. Page 791953]

, relator was convicted of a crime in Ohio and after serving a jail sentence in that state, returned to prison in Pennsylvania as a parole violator. Relator was again released on parole on February 24, 1960 and was again convicted of crimes in Washington and Armstrong Counties. He was sentenced to serve concurrent terms of one to two years to begin at the expiration of the balance of the twenty year sentence imposed in 1940.

The petition attacks the validity of the 1940 judgment and sentence because of the lack of effective assistance of counsel. Relator testified that he was brought into court without counsel; that he advised the assistant district attorney that he was not guilty and wanted a jury trial; that thereupon the court motioned to an attorney present in the courtroom and appointed him to represent relator; that this lawyer offered him no assistance; and that the assistant district attorney induced him to sign a plea of nolo contendere by representing it as a "special" plea on which he would be sentenced to only two to four years.

We believe that ample evidence was presented at the habeas corpus hearings to sustain the conclusions of the lower court. The Superior Court's opinion stresses the issue of the guilt or innocence of the relator. But that is unimportant in this context. Here, we are concerned only with the validity of relator's confinement, not with his guilt. Therefore, we believe that the lower court properly granted the writ.

We believe, however, that the lower court exceeded its authority by determining that the dates of computation of the sentences imposed by the courts of Washington and Armstrong Counties be from the respective dates of imposition. Pursuant to the Act of May 25, 1951, P. L. 415, § 3, 12 P.S. § 1903, "where relator is undergoing detention ...


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