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UNITED STATES EX REL. WAKELEY v. RUSSELL

February 25, 1970

UNITED STATES of America ex rel. John R. WAKELEY
v.
H. E. RUSSELL, Superintendent


John W. Lord, Jr., Chief Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: LORD, JR.

JOHN W. LORD, Jr., Chief Judge.

 Relator, John R. Wakeley, filed the present petition for a writ of habeas corpus seeking relief from a 1963 conviction for second degree murder arising from the stabbing death of Mrs. Lillian Hines during an altercation on November 1, 1960. After pleading guilty to this offense, relator was sentenced to a term of 10 to 20 years. His minimum sentence expires on November 3, 1970.

 Relator took no direct appeal at the time of his conviction. However, on January 14, 1965, relator instituted a state action in habeas corpus which was dismissed by the lower court. An appeal was filed but later discontinued.

 Thereafter, on June 29, 1965, relator filed another habeas corpus petition which was also dismissed. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania affirmed that dismissal. Commonwealth ex rel. Wakeley v. Myers, 421 Pa. 18, 218 A. 2d 335 (1966). Subsequently, relator filed a petition for habeas corpus in this Court (Misc. No. 3490), and the Court, in effect, granted relator the right to appeal nunc pro tunc with counsel. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, considering, inter alia, the issues now presented, affirmed relator's conviction. Commonwealth v. Wakeley, 433 Pa. 159, 249 A. 2d 303 (1969). Having thereby exhausted his state court remedies, relator instituted the instant action in this Court.

 A full evidentiary hearing was held by this Court for the consideration of relator's contentions and briefs have been submitted on behalf of the relator and the Commonwealth. The matter is now ripe for determination.

 Relator asserts two grounds upon which he seeks a writ of habeas corpus. He claims first that the confession given by him to the police was involuntary and that this involuntary confession induced relator's guilty plea. Secondly, he claims that even if his confession were voluntary, his guilty plea was involuntary, because it resulted from coercion on the part of his counsel.

 In order to be valid, a guilty plea must be made knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily. Machibroda v. United States, 368 U.S. 487, 82 S. Ct. 510, 7 L. Ed. 2d 473 (1962). The resolution of this issue calls for an analysis of all of the relevant facts on a case by case basis. United States ex rel. Crosby v. Brierley, 404 F.2d 790 (3rd Cir. 1968); United States ex rel. Black v. Russell, 306 F. Supp. 270 (E.D. Pa.; Opinion filed November 24, 1969). Important factors to be taken into consideration include: (1) the relator's age and background; (2) the trial counsel's familiarity with the law; (3) the consistency, or lack of consistency in the pleas made throughout the pretrial and trial stages of the case; and (4) the relator's opportunity to consult with his trial counsel. United States ex rel. Crosby v. Brierley, supra ; United States ex rel. Black v. Russell, supra. Accordingly, a summary of the background of the relator and factual circumstances culminating in the guilty plea in the instant case will be helpful.

 At the time of the incident here in question, relator was twenty-seven years old and unemployed, and had been without steady employment for some five years (N.T. 6-7). *fn1" He had attended high school until the tenth grade, but had quit at age fourteen in order to work to support his family (Trial N.T. 51; *fn2" N.T. 8). His mother was a cripple, and his father, two uncles and an aunt were alcoholics (N.T. 10, 138). His father, one uncle, and the aunt have by now all died in their fifties, at least one definitely as the result of alcoholism (N.T. 138).

 Wakeley began drinking with his father when he was fourteen years old (N.T. 8). However, he became an electrician and worked steadily until 1955, when he had an auto accident near Peekskill, New York (N.T. 7). As a result of this accident he suffered a brain concussion and facial injuries which resulted in his hospitalization. (N.T. 7).

 After the accident Wakeley ceased steady employment and became an extremely heavy drinker (N.T. 7). He fell into a pattern of spending most of the day drinking at his home and in local taverns (N.T. 8-11). He supported himself by doing odd jobs and by frequently selling his blood (N.T. 8, 12-14). During 1960, he donated blood on at least fourteen occasions (Trial N.T. 30). During 1959, he twice attempted suicide, once by slashing his wrists and once by disconnecting the gas pipe of a stove and locking himself in the room containing it (N.T. 20-22).

 On the day of the incident in question, relator testified that he began the day by consuming a pint of whiskey and a quart or so of ale (N.T. 11). After carrying his crippled mother downstairs, he testified that he went to a local bar and continued drinking, consuming some four or five quarts of ale and some wine (N.T. 11-12). At about 1 o'clock he went home, took a shower and then went back to the bar about 2 o'clock. Thereafter, he attempted to sell blood at Penn Center Plaza, but was refused because the agency would not accept blood of his type (N.T. 13). He testified that he next went to the City Grille and had a few beers (N.T. 13). He testified that he then went to a local blood bank and sold a pint of blood for five dollars (N.T. 13). Next he purchased a half pint of gin and returned to the bar near his home (N.T. 14-15). He said that he stayed at this bar and drank until he felt that he ought not remain to drink further because he judged from the bartender's conduct based on his previous experience that the latter felt that he (Wakeley) had had too much to drink (N.T. 15-16).

 Wakeley testified that he then went to the home of a Mrs. Hines, whom he knew, and consumed some more gin, sharing the bottle with Mrs. Hines, who drank most of it (N.T. 16). An altercation, the details of which are not entirely clear, followed, and resulted in the death of Mrs. Hines by stabbing and strangulation *fn3" (Trial N.T. 5-6).

 Relator left the home of Mrs. Hines, apparently in a dazed condition and returned to his home (N.T. 17). He testified that he advised his brother that he thought he had hurt someone (N.T. 17). They decided to go to see his uncle to seek advice as to what he should do (N.T. 18). On the way they stopped at a taproom and drank more whiskey (N.T. 18-19). While he was at his uncle's, his brother went back to pick up his father (N.T. ...


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