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COMMONWEALTH v. WILSON (04/16/68)

decided: April 16, 1968.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
WILSON, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Philadelphia County, May T., 1960, No. 1529, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Norman Wilson.

COUNSEL

Melvin Dildine, Assistant Defender, and Herman I. Pollock, Defender, for appellant.

Welsh S. White, and Alan J. Davis, Assistant District Attorneys, Richard A. Sprague, First 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. Chief Justice Bell concurs in the result. Mr. Justice Cohen took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Roberts

[ 429 Pa. Page 459]

Racial unrest swirling about the area of Southern High School in Philadelphia produced, in 1960, several vicious attacks by gangs of Negro youths against white boys, and vice versa. The present case stems from one such incident. On March 21, 1960, the deceased, John Campiglia, was attacked by a group of young Negroes, beaten, and fatally stabbed. Appellant, Norman Wilson, was a member of the group responsible. Privately retained counsel represented appellant; after consultation with this lawyer, Wilson entered a plea of guilty to murder generally. He was adjudged guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to life imprisonment, an adjudication from which no direct appeal was taken.

Appellant subsequently filed a petition under the Post Conviction Hearing Act in which he alleged that a confession was coerced from him which in turn motivated the entry of his plea, that trial counsel was ineffective, and that a conflict of interest resulted from trial counsel's dual representation of Wilson and Lonnie Jackson, a co-defendant and fellow gang member, who also pleaded guilty to murder.*fn1 Jackson's crime

[ 429 Pa. Page 460]

    was certified by the Commonwealth as rising no higher than second degree and he was subsequently convicted of that offense. Post-conviction counsel was appointed for Wilson, an evidentiary hearing held, and relief denied. It is from this denial that appellant now appeals.*fn2

On the issue of his confession and subsequent guilty plea it is clear that Wilson cannot prevail. No claim is made that the plea itself was not knowingly and intelligently entered. Rather, as was argued in Commonwealth v. Garrett, 425 Pa. 594, 229 A.2d 922 (1967) and Commonwealth v. Baity, 428 Pa. 306, 237 A.2d 172 (1968), appellant here contends that the plea was motivated by a confession allegedly coerced. He therefore seeks to avail himself of the right to set aside the plea and collaterally attack the confession, a right guaranteed by Garrett only when petitioner can demonstrate that the confession was the "primary motivation" for his plea of guilty. To resolve the question of what motivated Wilson's plea, the court below heard the testimony of both Wilson and Isaiah Crippins, Wilson's trial counsel. Quite predictably, appellant maintained that he was told nothing about entering a plea except that he should do so because the police had his confession and there was nothing Mr. Crippins could do about it. However, this testimony was flatly contradicted by Crippins himself. When asked by the court below to explain why he advised Wilson to plead guilty, Mr. Crippins was both explicit and convincing. He said: "The reason I advised him to plead guilty was I had seen the file of the District Attorney. I

[ 429 Pa. Page 461]

    knew what their witnesses would testify to because I had access to the statements. I explained to Norman Wilson, who would testify against him and what they would say. . . .

"I had seen the medical report where there was only one stab wound. [Wilson has always admitted stabbing the deceased, but claims that he was not the only assailant.] I had seen the pictures of the body. I felt I knew the climate in Philadelphia at that time. The newspapers were screaming, the media was screaming, and I had only two alternatives, either to plead him not guilty and take a jury trial, at which jury trial he could have received the death penalty; or, I could get the agreement from the District Attorney that he was not going to ask for death . . ...


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