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COMMONWEALTH v. HUGHES (05/09/69)

decided: May 9, 1969.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
HUGHES, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Criminal Courts of Fayette County, Dec. T., 1964, No. 20/61, in case of Commonwealth v. Ralph Russell Hughes.

COUNSEL

Jacob E. Horewitz, for appellant.

A. J. Kuzdenyi, First Assistant District Attorney, and Joseph E. Kovach, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Pomeroy.

Author: Pomeroy

[ 434 Pa. Page 423]

On the afternoon of August 20, 1964, appellant Ralph Russell Hughes shot and killed Mrs. Eva Mae Moser in the reception room of the office of Dr. Charles C. Hubbard in the Fayette Bank Building in Uniontown,

[ 434 Pa. Page 424]

Pennsylvania. At the time of the slaying, Mrs. Moser was one of nine persons seated in the waiting room; five of those persons subsequently testified as eyewitnesses to the shooting. After the shooting, Hughes was taken into custody, arraigned the following day, and committed to the Fayette County jail. At all times preceding his sentencing, Hughes was represented both by appointed counsel and by the family attorney.

At counsels' request, a Sanity Commission consisting of two (2) general medical practitioners and a member of the Bar was appointed by the Court to investigate the condition of the prisoner. Their report found Hughes unstable and psychotic, and recommended commitment to a mental hospital. Thereafter, Hughes was taken to the Somerset State Hospital for examination by a qualified psychiatrist. On December 14, 1964, William C. Ryan, M.D., the examining psychiatrist, addressed a letter to the District Attorney of Fayette County and counsel for the appellant in which he reported no evidence of psychosis or neurosis, and stated, inter alia: "I believe that Mr. Hughes is aware of the significance of the charges against him. I believe him to be capable to speak in Court in his own defense."

On December 14, 1964, the defendant entered a plea of guilty at No. 20/61 December Term, 1964, in the Court of Oyer and Terminer of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Subsequently, on February 18, 1965, a hearing was held before the Court en banc for the purpose of taking testimony and determining the degree of guilt; the Court en banc found the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree and imposed a sentence of life imprisonment. No appeal was taken from that sentence.

Thereafter, the appellant filed two separate petitions for post-conviction relief; each petition was denied

[ 434 Pa. Page 425]

    without appointment of counsel and without hearing. Upon appeal to this Court from the dismissal of the second petition, we vacated the order of the court below and remanded the record with directions to the court "to appoint counsel to represent Ralph Russell Hughes in a post-conviction proceeding." Commonwealth v. Hughes, 427 Pa. 401, 403, 235 A.2d 153 (1967). Counsel was appointed and a hearing held on January 31, 1968. After hearing testimony ...


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