The incident which gave rise to these charges was the robbery of the Greystone Garage in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on October 9, 1966, during which the attendant was shot twice and killed and $700.00 was stolen. Petitioner pleaded not guilty and a jury trial ensued in February 1967. On the fourth day of the trial while the Commonwealth was still presenting its evidence, petitioner's attorneys requested and were granted a recess. During the recess they met with petitioner in the Lawyers' Conference Room in the Lycoming County Courthouse. After the recess the prosecution called to the stand Leslie Caputo, the half brother of relator. Petitioner's attorneys requested from the District Attorney an offer of proof. Relator's attorneys were informed that Caputo would testify that defendant, six days before the events at the Greystone Garage, showed him the murder weapon and told him that he intended to rob the Greystone Garage leaving no witnesses. At this point petitioner's attorneys again requested and were granted a recess and they again took petitioner to the Lawyers' Conference Room. Present at this meeting with relator were Sidney v. Simon, Esquire, and James F. Cendoman, Esquire, his attorneys; his mother, Frances Caputo; his stepfather, Dominic Caputo; his aunt, Mary Miele; his then pregnant wife, Carol; and his minister, the Rev. Charles H. Manning. After this recess petitioner sought leave of the court to change his plea to guilty. This was granted. Thereafter the court received testimony and after a finding of murder in the first degree sentenced the petitioner to life imprisonment. Subsequently, relator filed a petition for relief under the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Hearing Act alleging inter alia that his guilty plea had been coerced. An evidentiary hearing was held and relief denied. An appeal was taken to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court which affirmed the Order of the lower court on July 25, 1969. Commonwealth v. Servey, 434 Pa. 433, 256 A.2d 469 (1969). State remedies have therefore been exhausted on the issue of whether or not the guilty plea of petitioner was the result of coercion.
Since petitioner had the opportunity to comprehensively set forth his evidence in support of his contentions at the Post Conviction hearing in July of 1967, there is no necessity for an additional evidentiary hearing. Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 83 S. Ct. 745, 9 L. Ed. 2d 770 (1963); United States ex rel. Darrah v. Brierley, 290 F. Supp. 960 (E.D.Pa.1968); United States ex rel. Cottrell v. Rundle, 299 F. Supp. 1028 (E.D.Pa.1969).
Petitioner has presented three questions to this court:
(1) Was the plea of guilty coerced?
(2) Was petitioner's constitutional right under the Sixth Amendment infringed by the refusal of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to permit oral argument?
(3) Did the actions of the court-appointed attorneys in persuading him to plead guilty amount to a denial of his right to be represented by effective assistance of counsel in violation of his rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution?
The first allegation raised in relator's petition is that his plea of guilty was coerced. To substantiate this claim factually, petitioner in his brief, concentrates on the second meeting during the trial recess in the Lawyers' Conference Room of the Lycoming County Court-house. Referring to this meeting relator's attorney states in his brief (p. 6) that the plea "came about as a result of a justifiable fear of the electric chair, of the psychological pressures placed upon him and finally of a ray of hope extended to him by his attorney, Mr. Simon, who reminded him 'Dead men can't appeal, and a live man can.'"
This court has carefully examined the transcript of testimony presented at relator's Post Conviction hearing and is unable to conclude that the factual determination made by the State court on this issue is not fairly supported by the record. 28 U.S.C. § 2254 as amended in 1966 provides in part that:
(d) In any proceeding instituted in a Federal court by an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court, a determination after a hearing on the merits of a factual issue, made by a State court of competent jurisdiction in a proceeding to which the applicant for the writ and the State or an officer or agent thereof were parties, evidenced by a written finding, written opinion, or other reliable and adequate written indicia, shall be presumed to be correct, * * *
Petitioner has not pleaded any facts that would bring him under one of the seven exceptions to the above stated statute and, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(8), as stated previously, I believe that the record supports the State factual determination.
It might be noted that petitioner upon examination by the court at the Post Conviction hearing admitted that his decision to change his plea from not guilty to guilty was in the final analysis his alone and that he was not forced to do so. (Post Conviction Hearing Transcript p. 69. See also p. 77).
The second contention of petitioner is that the refusal by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to allow oral argument on his appeal from the denial of relief under the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Hearing Act was an infringement of his constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.
Relator argues that under present appellate practice, on direct appeal, a State defendant has the absolute right to oral argument. He cites Rule No. 39 of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules as authority for the proposition that such an absolute right exists on direct appeal. Rule No. 39 provides:
Appellant shall have the opening and concluding argument, except that in cross-appeals from the same order, judgment or decree, plaintiff or petitioner in the court below shall have the opening and conclusion. Where two or more appeals, not being cross-appeals, are heard together, each appellant shall open the argument on his appeal, each appellee shall reply thereto, and not more than two appellants will be heard in conclusion.