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UNITED STATES EX REL. CORNITCHER v. RUNDLE

May 29, 1968

UNITED STATES of America ex rel. Herbert CORNITCHER, H-2846
v.
Alfred T. RUNDLE (Supt.)



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LORD, III

 Relator seeks a writ of habeas corpus. He is currently serving a four to eight-year sentence imposed on May 22, 1963 resulting from his convictions for a variety of offenses that took place in the early morning of July 23, 1962. It is these convictions which the relator now attacks by this petition.

 His only claim is that during the course of his trial he was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation. See Douglas v. State of Alabama, 380 U.S. 415, 85 S. Ct. 1074, 13 L. Ed. 2d 934 (1965). More particularly he complains that he was denied the opportunity to cross-examine a co-defendant, whose statement, testified to by Detective Devine, incriminated the relator to a certain extent.

 In a prior petition relator presented this same claim, among others, to us. At that time, however, this claim was premature as it had not yet been presented to the state courts. Thus, we denied the writ as to all claims but withheld any ruling on the merits of this claim until such time as relator had exhausted his state remedies. United States ex rel. Cornitcher v. Myers, 253 F. Supp. 763 (E.D.Pa.1966). We did note in that Opinion, however, that aside from the Sixth Amendment question, there was also a question of whether relator had waived his constitutional right.

 After the denial of the writ here relator presented his claim to the state courts. A post-conviction hearing was held at which time the only question before the court was whether there had been a waiver of relator's constitutional rights. The lower court, after a full hearing, denied relief on the ground that there had been a waiver. Commonwealth v. Cornitcher, (Phila.Co., April 3, 1967). This was affirmed on appeal. Commonwealth v. Cornitcher, 211 Pa.Super. 710, 234 A.2d 223 (1967). Relator now, after exhausting his state remedies, presses his claim here.

 In light of the full hearing accorded relator in the state courts, at which time he was represented by competent counsel we do not feel it necessary to hold a federal hearing *fn1" and thus will decide this case on the basis of the post-conviction hearing record (P.C.H.) with certain references to the trial record. *fn2" (T.) See Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 83 S. Ct. 745, 9 L. Ed. 2d 770 (1963).

 The relevant facts are as follows:

 Relator, along with two co-defendants, was tried for varying offenses all arising from an alleged forcible rape of two women. Relator was represented at trial by William A. Dwyer, Jr., Esquire (now Judge Dwyer), while the two co-defendants were represented by William J. Stevens, Jr., Esquire.

 At trial none of the defendants took the stand. Relator argues from this that the testimony by Detective Devine, insofar as it relates to statements made by Griffin which incriminate relator, resulted in a denial of his right to confront (cross-examine) his accuser.

 Ordinarily, under Pennsylvania law, this testimony would have been excludable as hearsay as to co-defendants Stokes and relator. Commonwealth v. Ellsworth, 409 Pa. 505, 187 A.2d 640 (1963); Commonwealth v. Ott, 154 Pa.Super. 647, 36 A.2d 838 (1944). We also will assume arguendo that Douglas v. Alabama, supra, governs the disposition of this case and therefore relator was denied his right to confront his accuser.

 In any event, there is the question as to whether relator waived any claim that he might have on this issue.

 Although Douglas was not yet decided when this case was tried, relator's trial attorney knew that the Pennsylvania hearsay rules would allow relator to be insulated from the effects of this testimony. (P.C.H. 23). Yet he did not object to its admission nor did he ask for a limiting instruction. This was not an oversight but was clearly part of counsel's trial strategy.

 Counsel was not unaware of the incriminating portions of the statement. He, however, thought the overall effect was helpful to his defense, i.e., that the intercourse was consensual. (P.C.H. 23). A careful reading of the testimony of Detective Devine insofar as it deals with Griffin's statement (T. 127 et seq.) generally substantiates counsel's view. *fn3" Thus, not only did counsel feel that the statement was consistent with the defense of consensual intercourse, a defense concurred in by the relator (P.C.H. 40); he thought it wiser to introduce the defense into evidence in this manner than to put his client on the stand and rather subject him to the potential danger inherent in cross-examination. (P.C.H. 19). This was also the ...


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