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COMMONWEALTH v. ROUNDTREE (10/09/70)

decided: October 9, 1970.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
ROUNDTREE, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Oct. T., 1962, Nos. 191, 192 and 193, in case of Commonwealth v. Weldon Roundtree.

COUNSEL

I. Leonard Hoffman, for appellant.

Arthur R. Makadon, 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.

Author: Eagen

[ 440 Pa. Page 201]

In this appeal, the appellant, Weldon Roundtree, challenges the validity of the judgment and conviction resulting from his general plea of guilty on May 15, 1963,*fn1 to the charge of murder.

It is urged that the plea was invalid "as not being voluntarily and intelligently made."

While Roundtree speaks in terms of the plea being "involuntary", what is really meant, as our subsequent discussion will manifest, is that the plea was entered

[ 440 Pa. Page 202]

    unintelligently or unknowingly. Parker v. North Carolina, 397 U.S. 790, 90 S. Ct. 1458 (1970). And, of course, if this is true, the plea and conviction should be set aside because for a plea to be valid, it must not only be the free and voluntary act of the maker, but it must also be intelligently and knowingly entered. Commonwealth v. Cottrell, 433 Pa. 177, 249 A.2d 294 (1969).

In support of his position, Roundtree asserts two contentions which are more or less related. First, he says that when he plead guilty he thought he was merely admitting he fired the shot which caused the victim's death, and that he would be given the opportunity of showing the trial court that he shot in self-defense and was not criminally responsible. Secondly, he says his testimony at the plea proceedings indicated he acted in self-defense and, therefore, the court erred in not rejecting his guilty plea after hearing this testimony.

We shall explore the latter contention first.

We think it is logical and correct that if a defendant pleads guilty to a criminal charge, and in the next breath contravenes the plea by asserting facts which, if true, would establish that he is not guilty, then his guilty plea is of no effect and should be rejected. For on its face, such a situation would show that the plea was not entered with a complete comprehension of its impact. Commonwealth v. Cavanaugh, 183 Pa. Superior Ct. 417, 133 A.2d 288 (1957); and United States ex rel. Crosby v. Brierley, 404 F. 2d 790 (3d Cir. 1968). In other words, a defendant should not be allowed to plead "guilty" from one side of his mouth and "not guilty" from the other. And when a plea of ...


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