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COMMONWEALTH v. GARRETT (05/24/67)

decided: May 24, 1967.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
GARRETT, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Philadelphia County, Sept. T., 1962, Nos. 27, 28, 29 and 30, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Charles Garrett.

COUNSEL

Charles Garrett, appellant, in propria persona.

Alan J. Davis, Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, 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 595]

Martha Browning, a 72 year old neighbor of Charles Garrett was found dead on June 21, 1962. A post-mortem examination revealed she had been raped and that

[ 425 Pa. Page 596]

    death was the result of multiple injuries evidently inflicted during a struggle. Appellant was taken into custody, and shortly thereafter signed a confession admitting the felony murder. On March 11, 1963, upon the advice of two court appointed counsel, he plead guilty to murder generally; upon conviction of first degree murder, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. No appeal was taken.

On May 24, 1966, Garrett filed a petition for relief pursuant to the Post Conviction Hearing Act, Act of January 25, 1966, P. L. (1965) 1580, 19 P.S. ยง 1180-1 (Supp. 1966). The court below heard oral argument, appellant being represented by counsel, on the question of whether an evidentiary hearing was necessary and, concluding it was not, dismissed the petition. We have before us the correctness of this ruling.

While appellant never challenges the assumption that his plea was knowingly entered, see Commonwealth ex rel. Kern v. Maroney, 423 Pa. 369, 371-72, 223 A.2d 706, 707 (1966); Commonwealth ex rel. Crosby v. Rundle, 415 Pa. 81, 85, 202 A.2d 299, 302 (1964), he does contend that it was unlawfully induced because based upon an involuntary confession. He further alleges that because his counsel advised him to plead guilty on the strength of the allegedly tainted confession and did not oppose its introduction at the hearing, they did not provide competent representation.*fn1

[ 425 Pa. Page 597]

We turn first to a consideration of the plea itself. A plea of guilty, knowingly made, constitutes an admission of guilt and is a waiver of all non-jurisdictional defects and defenses. Commonwealth ex rel. West v. Myers, 423 Pa. 1, 222 A.2d 918 (1966); United States v. Ptomey, 366 F. 2d 759 (3d Cir. 1966); United States ex rel. Maisenhelder v. Rundle, 349 F. 2d 592, 595 (3d Cir. 1965). The rule relating to the effect of a guilty plea, of course, "does not mean that a defendant who has pleaded guilty to murder waives the right to object to the admission of improper evidence which will bear on the degree of guilt and the punishment to be imposed." Commonwealth ex rel. Sanders v. Maroney, 417 Pa. 380, 382, 207 A.2d 789, 790 (1965); see Commonwealth ex rel. Kern v. Maroney, supra.

However, as the Commonwealth's brief concedes, the general rule "is not strictly applicable to the present case because appellant contends that his guilty plea was coerced by reason of the alleged involuntary confession." As we understand the Commonwealth's position, appellant would be entitled to a hearing if his petition alleged specific circumstances, which, when viewed in their totality, might have prevented him from entering a voluntary plea, provided the truth of these allegations were not contradicted by the record. United States ex rel. Perpiglia v. Rundle, 221 F. Supp. 1003 (E.D. Pa. 1963); see Waley v. Johnston, 316 U.S. 101, 62 S. Ct. 964 (1942); Hudgins v. United States, 340 F. 2d 391 (3d Cir. 1965); United States v. Morin, 265 F. 2d 241 (3d Cir. 1959). In other words, the Commonwealth recognizes ...


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