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COMMONWEALTH v. DOMINGQUEZ (01/19/73)

decided: January 19, 1973.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
DOMINGQUEZ, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, June T., 1959, No. 366, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Rudolpho Domingquez.

COUNSEL

Nicholas J. Nastasi, Vito F. Canuso, Jr., and Nastasi & Canuso, for appellant.

Jeffrey Philip Paul and Milton M. Stein, Assistant District Attorneys, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice O'Brien. Mr. Chief Justice Jones and Mr. Justice Eagen concur in the result.

Author: O'brien

[ 450 Pa. Page 224]

On December 20, 1960, appellant pled guilty to murder generally. A degree-of-guilt hearing ensued, before a three-judge court, and appellant was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. No appeal from the judgment of sentence was prosecuted at that time. In October of 1969, appellant filed a petition under the Post Conviction Hearing Act, Act of January 25, 1966, P. L. (1965) 1580 et seq., 19 P.S. ยง 1180 et seq. In his Post Conviction Hearing Act petition, appellant asserted that his guilty plea was not knowingly and intelligently made, since it was the product of an unconstitutionally obtained confession, that the evidence did not support a finding of guilty

[ 450 Pa. Page 225]

    of first-degree murder, and that the record of the trial court's proceeding was incomplete. An evidentiary hearing was held, at which appellant's trial counsel testified. The post-conviction court found that the confession was voluntary, that the guilty plea was knowingly and intelligently entered, and that the record was complete. The court also found, however, that appellant had not been advised of his right of appeal and, therefore, dismissed the Post Conviction Hearing Act petition, but granted leave to appellant to file an appeal from the judgment of sentence, nunc pro tunc. That appeal is now before us.

Appellant had been accused, together with a co-defendant, James Vento, of the murder of Frank Agnalla. Agnalla had died of some thirty-one stab wounds inflicted by appellant. The record in this case indicates that appellant and Agnalla had had a heated altercation prior to the killing, and that there was "bad blood" between them from that time until the date of the murder. On the date of the murder, at sometime between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., appellant and Vento equipped themselves with a knife, a crowbar and a gun and forced their way into an abandoned house next door to the house occupied by the victim. From the abandoned house they jumped across a space three feet wide to the roof of the victim's house. They entered the victim's room, where a fight ensued in which appellant stabbed the victim to death.

Appellant and Vento were charged with the crime, and the cases were severed, the Commonwealth bringing Vento to trial first. Appellant appeared at Vento's trial as a Commonwealth witness and testified as to the details of the crime. Vento was found guilty by a jury of murder in the first degree and punishment was fixed at life imprisonment. Subsequently, appellant was brought to trial, and at the degree-of-guilt hearing,

[ 450 Pa. Page 226]

    the Commonwealth and appellant's counsel entered into a stipulation that the testimony of the Vento trial might be introduced in evidence at appellant's degree-of-guilt hearing. On the basis of the Vento record and the evidence submitted at the degree-of-guilt hearing, the three-judge court, as indicated, fixed the degree of guilt as first-degree murder and imposed a sentence of life imprisonment.

Appellant's first allegation of error deals with the voluntariness of his guilty plea. It is his contention that he was held incommunicado for a period of twenty-four hours subsequent to his arrest and questioned by relays of police officers. He contends that the confession which resulted from that questioning procedure was coerced and that the ...


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