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UNITED STATES EX REL. SPEAKS v. BRIERLEY

November 19, 1968

UNITED STATES of America ex rel. Heyward SPEAKS
v.
Joseph R. BRIERLEY, Superintendent



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LUONGO

 In this petition for writ of habeas corpus, relator, Heyward Speaks, charges that his constitutional rights were violated by the courts of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in that they denied him due process of law and the equal protection of the laws of Pennsylvania.

 Speaks was indicted on 51 bills in the Court of Quarter Sessions of Philadelphia County, October Session, 1955, Nos. 938 through 988. Twenty-two of the bills charged rape or assault with intent to ravish and aggravated assault and battery; 21 charged burglary; four, aggravated robbery; and one each, sodomy, mayhem, carrying a concealed deadly weapon, and unlawful impersonation of an officer. Following indictment, Speaks was found to be incompetent to stand trial and was committed to an institution for the criminally insane until recovered sufficiently to stand trial. On November 25, 1958 he was brought to trial and was found guilty on 50 of the bills. *fn1" On April 3, 1959 Speaks was sentenced under the Barr-Walker Act, 19 P.S. § 1166 et seq., to imprisonment for one day to life. On Bill 938, following the printed word "Sentence," the clerk recorded the following:

 
"And Now April 3rd 1959
 
The Defendant 'Heyward Speaks' is hereby Committed under the 'Barr-Walker' Act for a period of from One (1) Day to Life and it is Ordered that the Defendant be sent to The Penna. State Hospital At 'Farview.'
 
See Letter attached.
 
By the Court" *fn2"

 On the remaining 49 bills, following the printed word "Sentence," the Clerk of Court entered the notation:

 
"See Sentence on Bill #938 Oct. 1955 No costs.
 
By the Court"

 The sentencing judge signed each of the 50 bills immediately below the words recorded by the clerk.

 In 1962 Speaks filed a habeas corpus petition in the state court charging that he had been improperly sentenced under the Barr-Walker Act because of failure to follow the procedure set forth therein. That petition was granted November 21, 1962 and Speaks was ordered returned to the sentencing judge for further proceedings. On May 17, 1963 the sentencing judge, interpreting the state habeas court's order as having vacated the sentence on Bill 938, imposed consecutive 5 to 15 year prison sentences on Bills 940 and 970 effective from October 7, 1955, the date Speaks was originally taken into custody.

 The state habeas judge (Jamieson, J.) accepted the Commonwealth's statement and concluded that sentence had been suspended on the 49 bills in 1959. Since no definite period of probation had been set when the sentences were suspended, and since the term of court had long since passed, Judge Jamieson concluded that under Commonwealth v. Duff, supra, the sentencing court lacked power in 1963 to sentence on Bills 940 and 970 and he granted the writ. The Commonwealth appealed, and on appeal argued, contrary to the position taken before the habeas court, that the sentencing court had not suspended sentence on Bills 940 and 970. ...


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