Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Jan. T., 1946, No. 517, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Robert Johnson.
Leon H. Kline, for appellant.
Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter, Assistant District Attorney, with her 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 Manderino. Mr. Justice O'Brien and Mr. Justice Nix concur in the result. Mr. Justice Eagen dissents. Concurring Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Pomeroy. Mr. Chief Justice Jones joins in this dissenting opinion.
Appellant, Robert Johnson, on February 6, 1946, pleaded guilty to murder generally, was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to one of life imprisonment. No appeal was taken.
In 1965, Johnson filed a habeas corpus petition in which he claimed that his confession should not have been admitted at his degree of guilt hearing because it was given at a critical stage in the proceedings when he was not represented by counsel. Relief was denied and an appeal was taken to this Court.
While appellant's appeal from the denial of his habeas corpus petition was pending, he filed a Post Conviction Hearing Act petition, in which he claimed that (1) he was physically coerced to confess and was without an understanding as to the consequences of his confession, and (2) that he was not informed of his right to appeal from the judgment of sentence. Relief was denied in the PCHA proceeding and Johnson filed another appeal to this Court.
The two appeals from the habeas corpus proceedings and the PCHA proceedings were consolidated and heard by this Court. Commonwealth ex rel. Johnson v. Rundle, 440 Pa. 485, 270 A.2d 183 (1970). In the PCHA petition appeal, this Court sustained the lower court's finding that appellant's confession was not coerced, but reversed the lower court on appellant's other PCHA claim, that he was improperly denied his appeal rights. Appellant was, therefore, given the right to file post-trial motions as though timely filed. In the appeal from the habeas corpus petition denial, this Court agreed with appellant's claim that his confession was elicited at a critical stage in the proceedings when counsel was required under the Sixth Amendment. Massiah v. United States, 377 U.S. 201, 12 L. Ed. 2d 246 (1964). Appellant, however, was denied relief because his appeal was the result of a collateral proceeding. In denying relief this Court relied on United States ex rel. Allison v. State of New Jersey, 418 F. 2d 332 (3d Cir. 1969). In Allison, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals stated: "The guidelines controlling the retroactive application of newly announced decisions governing criminal procedure . . . lead us to conclude that the rule of Massiah may not be utilized to attack convictions which have cleared the appellate courts on direct appeal before the date of the decision or where no appeal was taken." 418 F. 2d 332 at 336.
Following this Court's decision in appellant's first appeal, post-trial motions were filed and relief denied. Appellant is now before us on direct appeal from the denial of the post-trial motions.
Appellant raises again his claim that his confession was unconstitutionally obtained in that it was elicited at a crucial stage in the proceedings when counsel was required under the Sixth Amendment. He argues that he is now entitled to relief because he is before us on direct appeal from his judgment of sentence and not in an appeal arising out of a collateral ...