Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, Sept. T., 1968, No. 425, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Thomas Slavik.
Roger J. Ecker, Assistant District Attorney, with him Jess D. Costa, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellant.
George K. Hanna, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts.
On November 21, 1968, defendant-appellee, Thomas Slavik, pleaded guilty to murder generally. At the degree of guilt hearing before a three-judge panel*fn1 defendant was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to life imprisonment. Challenging the validity of his guilty plea, he appealed to this Court and on January 30, 1970, we affirmed the judgment of sentence. Commonwealth v. Slavik, 437 Pa. 354, 261 A.2d 583 (1970). In July, 1970, Slavik filed a petition for relief under the Post Conviction Hearing Act,*fn2 again challenging the validity of his plea. After a hearing
the PCHA court granted the defendant a new trial. The Commonwealth has appealed that decision.
We reverse the grant of a new trial. The validity of Slavik's guilty plea was decided on his direct appeal when the case was before us in 1970. Hence that issue was there finally litigated within Section 4 of the Post Conviction Hearing Act.*fn3
Section 4(a)(3) of the Post Conviction Hearing Act mandates that an issue is finally litigated if "[t]he Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has ruled on the merits of the issue."*fn4 On direct appeal to this Court the defendant challenged the constitutional validity*fn5 of his guilty plea by claiming the plea was not made voluntarily. The theory upon which petitioner based this claim of involuntariness was that he had been induced to plead guilty because of the existence of an illegally obtained confession. This Court, specifically addressing itself to that issue, found no merit in defendant's contention and affirmed the conviction. Former Chief Justice Bell, speaking for a unanimous court, said, inter alia: "Defendant also raises on this appeal the voluntariness of his guilty plea. As a basis for this contention, defendant states that after he had been apprehended and placed in the Washington County jail, members of his family requested
Assistant District Attorney Herman Bigi to visit the defendant in jail. Mr. Bigi had represented the defendant prior to becoming Assistant District Attorney and was invited to visit the defendant as a friend. The meeting with defendant took place on July 30, 1968, several days prior to Morgo's death. At the time of Bigi's visit, defendant was not represented by counsel. The meeting between the defendant and Bigi began in a friendly manner, but concluded in Bigi's giving defendant the required Miranda (Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436) warnings and obtaining a written confession signed by defendant. Defendant urges that this confession was not voluntary and was not admissible, but that its existence induced and in effect required him to plead guilty, which he would not have done in the absence of such a confession.
"We are at a loss to appreciate this contention in view of the fact that on November 12, 1968 -- nine days prior to his guilty plea, at which time he was represented by counsel -- the trial Court granted defendant's motion to suppress the confession and impound the record of the hearing relating to the confession." Commonwealth v. Slavik, 437 Pa. 354, 359, 261 A.2d 583, 585-86 (1970). This Court's determination was ...