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COMMONWEALTH v. TIMMONS (10/09/70)

decided: October 9, 1970.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
TIMMONS, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Berks County, March T., 1963, Nos. 203 and 204, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Raymond Samuel Timmons.

COUNSEL

Ralph W. D. Levan, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.

Grant E. Wesner, Assistant District Attorney, and Robert L. Van Hoove, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 440 Pa. Page 263]

On June 4, 1963, the fifth day of appellant's trial for the murder of Harry Yeager, appellant changed his plea from not guilty to guilty, and, at the same time, pleaded guilty to the murder of John Batdorf. Upon agreement of defense counsel, the previous four days of trial were then incorporated into the record and the trial judge proceeded to take evidence as to both murders in order to determine the degree of guilt. Concluding

[ 440 Pa. Page 264]

    that appellant was guilty of murder in the first degree in both homicides, the trial judge sentenced appellant to life imprisonment on each indictment, the sentences to run consecutively. Post-trial motions were not filed, and no appeal was taken.

In 1967 appellant filed a petition pursuant to the Post Conviction Hearing Act alleging, inter alia, that his pleas were not knowingly and intelligently entered, and that he had been unconstitutionally denied his right to appeal. Counsel was appointed, a hearing held, and relief denied on all claims. No appeal was taken.

In 1969 appellant filed another PCHA petition. After appointment of counsel and an evidentiary hearing, the hearing court determined that appellant had not waived his right to appeal from the denial of his first PCHA petition. Appellant then prosecuted this appeal, raising as error the determination that his pleas were knowingly and intelligently entered, and the determination that he had committed first degree murder. We are unable to find that these determinations, which are adverse to appellant, constitute error, and we must therefore affirm.

Appellant argues that he was unable to knowingly and intelligently enter his guilty pleas because of his lack of mental capacity. See, e.g., Commonwealth ex rel. Hilberry v. Maroney, 417 Pa. 534, 207 A.2d 794 (1965). In support of this contention he cites the factors listed by the trial court as reasons for not imposing the death penalty: appellant can neither read nor write, is of "borderline intelligence," and, according to psychiatric testing, cannot make moral decisions in accordance with the usual norms of society. See Commonwealth v. Timmons, 56 Berks 89, 93-94 (1963). Appellant also points to the testimony he gave at trial when he changed his plea,*fn1 and testimony given by a

[ 440 Pa. Page 265]

    relative at the PCHA hearing,*fn2 such testimony tending to indicate that appellant was under family pressure to plead guilty and did ...


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