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COMMONWEALTH v. THOMAS (10/09/70)

decided: October 9, 1970.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
THOMAS, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, June T., 1954, Nos. 218 and 219, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Hezekiah Thomas.

COUNSEL

Stanford Shmukler, for appellant.

T. Michael Mather, Assistant District Attorney, James D. Crawford, Deputy District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, 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.

Author: Eagen

[ 440 Pa. Page 214]

This is an appeal from an order entered in the court below dismissing an action seeking post-conviction relief.

The record discloses the following:

On March 29, 1954, Robert Blocker was shot and killed during a street "gang" fight in Philadelphia. The appellant, Hezekiah Thomas,*fn1 was one of several youths taken into police custody in connection with the homicide. He was fourteen years of age at the time. Subsequently, Thomas was taken before Judge Propper sitting in the Juvenile Court Division of the Municipal Court (later designated the County Court), who, acting as a committing magistrate, ordered Thomas held without bail to await action by the grand jury.*fn2 Thomas did not have legal counsel during the proceedings.

[ 440 Pa. Page 215]

Thomas was subsequently indicted for murder in the Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Jail Delivery of Philadelphia County. Two lawyers were appointed by the court to represent him.

On November 3, 1954, Thomas appeared with his counsel before Judge Griffiths in the Court of Oyer and Terminer and entered a general plea of guilty to the murder indictment. Testimony was heard, following which Thomas was adjudged guilty of murder in the second degree and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of 7 to 18 years. No appeal was entered.

In May 1967, Thomas initiated the present post-conviction relief proceedings under the Post Conviction Hearing Act, Act of January 25, 1966, P. L. (1965) 1580, 19 P.S. ยง 1180-1 et seq. (Supp. 1970), challenging the validity of his 1954 conviction based on his guilty plea. Counsel was appointed to represent him. After an evidentiary hearing, relief was denied. This appeal then followed.

First, it is asserted that the lower court erred in not invalidating the guilty plea because it "was primarily motivated by an involuntary confession" given to police by Thomas after ...


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