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COMMONWEALTH v. MADDOX (02/05/73)

decided: February 5, 1973.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
MADDOX, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, July T., 1970, No. 730, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Johnnie Maddox.

COUNSEL

Eugene H. Clarke, Jr., for appellant.

Milton M. Stein, Assistant District Attorney, James D. Crawford, Deputy District Attorney, 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 Roberts. Mr. Chief Justice Jones joins in this opinion as well as the concurring opinion of Mr. Justice Pomeroy. Mr. Justice Eagen concurs in the result. Concurring Opinion by Mr. Justice Pomeroy. Mr. Chief Justice Jones joins in this concurring opinion.

Author: Roberts

[ 450 Pa. Page 407]

On June 13, 1970, seven year old Antoinette Williams, while sitting on the front porch of her house, was caught in the crossfire of a gang fight and was shot in the head. She died at the hospital later that evening.

On the following day, appellant was arrested and charged with carrying firearms on the public streets and with the murder of Antoinette Williams. Subsequently, the firearms charge was withdrawn and appellant pleaded guilty to murder generally. The Commonwealth having certified that the charge rose no higher than second degree murder, a degree of guilt hearing was held in accordance with Pa. R. Crim. P. 319A and appellant was found guilty of second degree murder. He was sentenced to five to fifteen years imprisonment. A petition for reconsideration of sentence was heard and denied.

On this direct appeal, appellant asserts that the record does not indicate that his guilty plea was a knowing and intelligent decision. Specifically, he contends that he was never informed of his right to a jury trial or of the presumption of innocence. Furthermore, he argues that his "options" and "possibilities" were not explained. Finally, appellant urges that the record fails to disclose how the acts he committed constituted the offense with which he was charged. Since we find no merit in any of appellant's claims, the judgment of sentence is affirmed.

Rule 319(a) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure (effective February 3, 1969 as amended) precludes acceptance of a guilty plea unless a colloquy appears on the record which establishes that the defendant's plea is "voluntarily and understandingly

[ 450 Pa. Page 408]

    made." Even prior to the amendment of that rule, we stated that in order to insulate pleas from attack, a colloquy should be conducted which satisfied the court that the "defendant understands the nature of the charges, his right to a jury trial, the acts sufficient to constitute the offenses for which he is charged and the permissible range of sentences." Commonwealth ex rel. West v. Rundle, 428 Pa. 102, 106, 237 A.2d 196, 198 (1968). Recently, in discussing F. R. Crim. P. 11, the federal counterpart of our Rule 319, the United States Supreme Court enunciated the purposes of such a colloquy: "First, although the procedure embodied in Rule 11 has not been held to be constitutionally mandated, it is designed to assist the district judge in making the constitutionally required determination that a defendant's guilty plea is truly voluntary. Second, the Rule is intended to produce a complete record at the time the plea is entered of the factors relevant to this voluntariness determination. Thus, the more meticulously the Rule is adhered to, the more it tends to discourage, or at least to enable more expeditious disposition of, the numerous and often frivolous post-conviction attacks on the constitutional validity of guilty pleas." McCarthy v. United States, 394 U.S. 459, 465, 89 S. Ct. 1166, 1170 (1969) (footnotes omitted).*fn1 In addition, it has been suggested that a colloquy

[ 450 Pa. Page 409]

    serves a third purpose of providing for a "dignified procedure designed to impress the defendant with its fairness and concern for his rights." Hoffman, Rule ...


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