Appeal from order of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Chester County, March T., 1962, No. 127, in case of Commonwealth v. David E. Shockley.
John R. Merrick, for appellant.
Thomas G. Ashton, Assistant District Attorney, and Norman J. Pine, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts.
On June 25, 1962, David E. Shockley was arraigned before the court in Chester County on an indictment charging him with murder. He pleaded "not guilty", and a jury was empanelled to hear the relevant testimony and determine his guilt or innocence.
On June 27th, after the Commonwealth had introduced the testimony of sixteen witnesses to establish Shockley's guilt of the crime and had rested its case in chief, Shockley's counsel requested the permission of the court to withdraw the plea of "not guilty" and enter a plea of guilty to murder in the second degree.*fn1 At the direction of the trial judge, Shockley then signed a plea of guilty to murder in the second degree on the back of the indictment. Then, in the presence of Shockley and his counsel, the trial judge informed the jury of the change of plea, and explained in detail the legal differences between first degree murder and second
degree murder, and stated that after a consideration of the testimony already heard he would accept the plea of guilt offered.
Following that, counsel for Shockley summarized for the court the facts to which Shockley and other defense witnesses would have testified if the case had proceeded to a conclusion. Mr. Stively, one of Shockley's counsel, then requested permission of the court to ask Shockley some questions, and the following ensued: "By Mr. Stively: Q. David, have Mr. Pitt and I represented you properly throughout this matter, in your opinion? A. Yes, you have. Q. And have we explained to you the case as we saw it against you and what you had on your side, and as a result, we made a recommendation as to whether or not this plea should be entered, is that a fact? A. Yes, you did. Q. But, David, isn't it correct, we left the final decision to you since you are the man who will be serving the sentence and we wanted you to voluntarily decide whether you wanted that? A. Yes, beyond all reasonable doubt, you left it up to me. Q. You did, of your own free will enter a plea of guilty? A. Of my own free will voluntarily."
Subsequently, Shockley was sentenced to serve imprisonment for a term of 8 to 18 years. No request to withdraw the plea was ever made, nor was an appeal entered from the judgment.
On April 4, 1968, Shockley filed a petition seeking post-conviction relief under the Act of January 25, 1966 (1965), P. L. 1580, § 1 et seq., 19 P.S. § 1180-1. Counsel was appointed to represent him and subsequently the court dismissed the petition without hearing. An appeal from that order is now before us.
Shockley argues that it was error for the court below to dismiss his petition seeking post-conviction relief without giving ...