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COMMONWEALTH v. LEWIS (06/28/71)

decided: June 28, 1971.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
LEWIS, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Feb. T., 1965, No. 807, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. James Henry Lewis.

COUNSEL

Marvin F. Galfand, and Dragon, Verlin & Galfand, for appellant.

Mark Sendrow and Milton M. Stein, Assistant District Attorneys, 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, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy and Barbieri, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen.

Author: Eagen

[ 443 Pa. Page 307]

On October 27, 1965, the appellant, John Henry Lewis, while represented by court-appointed counsel, A. Charles Peruto, Esq., and Edmund Pawalec, Esq., entered a general plea of guilty to murder. Before the plea was accepted, the trial court directed several questions to the accused personally, and Lewis' replies clearly indicated he was entering the plea of his own volition and also that he was fully aware of the consequences. After an evidentiary hearing before a three-judge court, Lewis was adjudged guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to life imprisonment. No appeal was entered.

In October 1968, Lewis instituted post-conviction relief proceedings challenging the validity of his conviction and sentence. After a counseled evidentiary hearing, relief was denied and this appeal followed.*fn1 We affirm.

[ 443 Pa. Page 308]

To understand the two prime contentions asserted by Lewis in this appeal, a brief summary of the pertinent factual history is necessary.

About 7 p.m., on December 31, 1964, George Turk, an elderly male, left his place of employment in Philadelphia and proceeded to his automobile parked on a nearby street. As he entered the vehicle, Lewis also entered the vehicle with the intention of robbing him, and brutally beat Turk with his fists inflicting multiple injuries which resulted in death. Ellis Banks aided Lewis in the commission of the crimes by serving as a lookout from a point about 30 feet away. On January 4, 1966, Banks, in response to police questioning, admitted his part in the commission of the crimes and implicated Lewis as the actual perpetrator. Lewis was taken into custody later the same day, and shortly thereafter gave the police a written confession detailing the circumstances of the assault and robbery.

Banks was called to trial first and was convicted by a jury of murder in the first degree and robbery. After judgments of sentence were imposed, appeals were filed and we subsequently reversed the judgments and convictions, because the incriminating admissions Banks made to the police and which were used against him at trial had been obtained without a prior warning of his right to remain silent. See 429 Pa. 53, 239 A.2d 416 (1968). On retrial, after pleading guilty to murder generally, Banks was adjudged guilty by the court of murder in the second degree and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of 5 to 20 years.

After Banks had originally been convicted by a jury, as before related, but before these convictions were reversed by this Court, Lewis was called to trial and, as previously noted, entered a general plea of guilty to murder. It is now urged that the guilty ...


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