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COMMONWEALTH v. CLARK (07/02/70)

decided: July 2, 1970.

COMMONWEALTH, APPELLANT,
v.
CLARK



Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, April T., 1952, No. 287, in case of Commonwealth v. Charles C. Clark.

COUNSEL

David Richman, Assistant District Attorney, with him James D. Crawford, Deputy District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Sanford Kahn, for appellee.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 439 Pa. Page 194]

In 1951 appellee, while incarcerated in the Indiana State Reformatory in Pendleton, Indiana, made certain statements to the Warden in which he confessed to a murder in the Philadelphia area. After questioning and an investigation by Pennsylvania authorities, an indictment was returned in Philadelphia County at April Sessions 1952. A trial was not had on this indictment, however, until March of 1959. At that trial appellee was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. No appeal was taken.

In 1967 appellee filed a petition pursuant to the Post Conviction Hearing Act, alleging that he was denied his right to appeal. Counsel was appointed, a hearing held and relief granted. Appellee then filed post-trial motions in which he alleged that he had been denied his right to a speedy trial and that an unconstitutionally obtained confession was admitted at his trial. The hearing court decided that his confession claim was not meritorious, but held that an evidentiary hearing was required to resolve the speedy trial claim. Believing that no procedure was available whereby evidence could be taken on post-trial motions, the hearing court granted appellee a new trial, at which time appellee could raise his speedy trial claim by way of a pre-trial motion to quash the indictment. The Commonwealth now appeals this ruling.*fn1

[ 439 Pa. Page 195]

Recent decisions of the United States Supreme Court have made clear that the right to a speedy trial "is one of the most basic rights preserved by our Constitution." Klopfer v. North Carolina, 386 U.S. 213, 226, 87 S. Ct. 988, 995 (1967). The Supreme Court has stated that the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of a speedy trial "is an important safeguard to prevent undue and oppressive incarceration prior to trial, to minimize anxiety and concern accompanying public accusation and to limit the possibilities that long delay will impair the ability of an accused to defend himself." United Staes v. Ewell, 383 U.S. 116, 120, 86 S. Ct. 773, 776 (1966). The Court has also detailed how delay in bringing to trial a man already in prison on a different charge -- as appellee in the instant case was -- "may ultimately result in as much oppression as is suffered by one who is jailed without bail upon an untried charge." Smith v. Hooey, 393 U.S. 374, 378, 89 S. Ct. 575, 577 (1969). See Comment, "Effective Guaranty of a Speedy Trial for Convicts in Other Jurisdictions," 77 Yale L.J. 767, 769-70 (1968).

Initially we note that the Commonwealth does not dispute appellee's contention that once a trial has been delayed so long that it is no longer "speedy", the proper relief must be dismissal of any further proceedings in connection with the charged offense, and not the grant of a trial. Dickey v. Florida, 398 U.S. 30, 90 S. Ct. 1564 (1970). For granting a trial could not remedy the oppressive incarceration prior to trial, or the anxiety caused by the pending charge, or the impaired ability of the accused to properly defend himself. "[T]he

[ 439 Pa. Page 196]

    constitutional guarantee is not to be washed away in the dirty water of the first prosecution, leaving the government free to begin anew with clean hands," and hence all further prosecution of the accused in connection with the charged offense must be barred once the accused's right to a speedy trial has been denied. Mann v. United States, 304 F. 2d 394, 397 (D.C. Cir. 1962).*fn2

The Commonwealth argues, however, that appellee has waived his right to assert his speedy trial claim by failing to raise it by way of a motion to quash the indictment before his 1959 trial, and by failing to raise it in his PCHA ...


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