Appeal from order of Superior Court, April T., 1966, No. 139, reversing order of Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County, Sept. T., 1963, No. 107, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. Richard Mullins v. James F. Maroney, Superintendent.
Edwin L. Klett, with him Eckert, Seamans & Cherin, for appellant.
Paul D. Shafer, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, with him John Fuller, Assistant District Attorney, and Vincent J. Pepicelli, District Attorney, for appellee.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Mr. Chief Justice Bell dissents.
Richard Mullins, accused of being one of three men who staged an armed robbery in the City of Meadville, Crawford County, Pennsylvania, in November 1961, was subsequently arrested for the crime in Marion, Ohio. He unsuccessfully fought extradition and was returned to Pennsylvania on February 1, 1962. He appeared before the court in Crawford County on February 5, 1962, without counsel and plead guilty to a district attorney's bill of indictment charging him with being an accessory before the fact to armed robbery. At the same time he signed a standard printed form on the indictment, which included, inter alia, a waiver of the right to the assistance of counsel and presentment of the charge to the grand jury.
Before accepting the plea, the trial court read the indictment to Mullins and was informed by the latter that he understood the nature of the charges. Mullins was also informed by the court that he had the right to have his case presented to the grand jury and the right to trial at which he could be present with counsel. As to his right to have the assistance of counsel before entering a plea to the indictment, the transcribed record of the proceedings shows the following: " Questions by Page 197} the Court : Q. Your name is Richard Mullins? A. Yes, sir. Q. Where do you live? A. Marion, Ohio. Q. Do you have an attorney? A. No, sir, I haven't. Q. Do you want one? A. No, I don't. Q. You have a right to have counsel here before you appear before the court, you understand that, do you? A. Yes, sir."
On February 5, 1962, Mullins again appeared without counsel before the court and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment under which he is presently confined. The record is silent as to whether or not on this occasion he was informed of his right to have the assistance of counsel. No appeal was entered from the judgment of sentence.
In 1964, Mullins instituted a habeas corpus action in Crawford County alleging unconstitutional deprivation of counsel at the time of plea and sentence. After hearing, the action was dismissed by the court, and on appeal the Superior Court affirmed. 204 Pa. Superior Ct. 749, 205 A.2d 122 (1964). We denied allocatur.
In 1965, Mullins instituted habeas corpus proceedings in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania and after a hearing that court concluded that a prima facie case for relief had been established, but that in the interest of comity the Pennsylvania state courts should be permitted to re-examine the issue in the light of recent pertinent decisions before a final order was entered.
Habeas corpus proceedings were then begun anew in Crawford County, and after a hearing that court concluded that Mullins had not intelligently waived his right to the assistance of counsel at the time of plea and was entitled to a new trial. The Commonwealth appealed to the Superior Court which ...