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COMMONWEALTH v. WOOD (05/24/67)

decided: May 24, 1967.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
WOOD, PETITIONER



Petition for leave to appeal from order of Superior Court, Oct. T., 1966, No. 504, affirming order of Court of Quarter Sessions of Delaware County, March T., 1964, Nos. 67 and 68, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Jerry H. Wood.

COUNSEL

Mervyn R. Turk, First Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.

Ralph B. D'Iorio, Assistant District Attorney, with him Vram S. Nedurian, Assistant District Attorney, Paul R. Sand, First Assistant District Attorney, and Jacques H. Fox, 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

[ 425 Pa. Page 614]

In February 1964, Jerry H. Wood, while represented by counsel entered a plea of guilty in the Court of Quarter Sessions of Delaware County to an indictment charging him with burglary and larceny. Following a guilty plea hearing, he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of three to six years.

In March 1966, Wood filed a petition under the Post Conviction Hearing Act, Act of January 25, 1966, P. L. (1965) 1580, 19 P.S. ยง 1180-1 (Supp. 1966), wherein he alleged that his guilty plea had been unlawfully induced. In April the court dismissed the petition without a hearing; an appeal was taken to the Superior Court where the order was affirmed per curiam. 208 Pa. Superior Ct. 765 (1966). We are asked to grant allocatur.

This petition is grounded in the assertion that the guilty plea was entered solely because of certain promises made by an agent of the Pennsylvania Parole Board, who, according to the petition, promised that if Wood plead guilty he would be convicted only of receiving stolen goods, not burglary, and would be committed to Haverford State Hospital rather than returned to prison. A few months before his arrest, petitioner had been released from prison on parole and he further asserts that this same agent threatened that his failure to co-operate would result in the imposition

[ 425 Pa. Page 615]

    of the maximum sentence under the burglary charge as well as the revocation of his parole.

At the time the plea was entered, the court did not question petitioner about whether he was aware of the consequences of his actions. Although our cases have not made such an inquiry an absolute prerequisite, preferring to treat each case upon its own circumstances, we have repeatedly warned that without a record demonstration that the decision to so plead is the defendant's own voluntary and intelligent choice, the plea's validity may be undermined in a subsequent collateral proceeding. See Commonwealth ex rel. Kerekes v. Maroney, 423 Pa. 337, 342, 223 A.2d 699, 702 (1966); Commonwealth ex rel. West v. Myers, 423 Pa. 1, 222 A.2d 918 (1966); Commonwealth ex rel. Crosby v. Rundle, 415 Pa. 81, 85, 202 A.2d 299, 302 (1964). Moreover, in the instant case, during the plea hearing, petitioner's counsel informed the court about the alleged assurance made to petitioner concerning his hospitalization. The court responded that it knew nothing about such recommendation, but that it was going to send petitioner back to the penitentiary anyway. Counsel's request for a continuance in order to produce the state official was opposed by the district attorney and denied by the court.

A habeas court must hold a hearing whenever, accepting as true all allegations of fact which are non-frivolous, specific, and not controverted by the record, the petition states grounds for relief. Commonwealth ex rel. Shaffer v. Cavell, 419 Pa. 218, 221, 213 A.2d 380, 382 (1965). Petitioner's allegations, if true, would invalidate the guilty plea, Commonwealth ex rel. West v. Myers, 423 Pa. 1, 222 A.2d 918 (1966); cf. Commonwealth ex rel. Kerekes v. Maroney, 423 Pa. 337, 223 A.2d 699 (1966). Indeed, the ...


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