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COMMONWEALTH v. MILLER (10/03/73)

decided: October 3, 1973.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
MILLER, APPELLANT



Appeals from order of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Nov. T., 1948, No. 1194, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Charles C. Miller.

COUNSEL

John W. Packel, Assistant Defender, with him Kenneth Mirsky and Jonathan Miller, Assistant Defenders, and Vincent J. Ziccardi, Defender, for appellant.

Milton M. Stein, Assistant District Attorney, with him Maxine J. Stotland, Assistant 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. Chief Justice Jones. Mr. Justice Roberts, Mr. Justice Nix and Mr. Justice Manderino concur in the result.

Author: Jones

[ 454 Pa. Page 69]

On February 4, 1949, the appellant, Charles C. Miller, pleaded guilty to murder generally, for the shooting death of Arthur James Ruth on the evening of October 16, 1948. The record is silent concerning the circumstances surrounding that plea. After a degree of guilt hearing before a three judge court, appellant was found guilty of first degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. At the time of his plea and throughout the proceedings, Miller was represented by court-appointed counsel. No direct appeal was taken from the judgment of sentence.

On July 23, 1969, appellant filed a petition under the Post Conviction Hearing Act,*fn1 alleging, inter alia, that his guilty plea was not knowingly entered because he lacked sufficient mental capacity to make the decisions implicit in a knowing, intelligent and voluntary plea. After an evidentiary hearing, Miller was granted the right to file post-trial motions nunc pro tunc, but the PCHA petition was denied in all other respects. The motion for a new trial was argued and was denied, but the PCHA petition was ordered listed for a new evidentiary hearing because the judge presiding at the first hearing died without making any findings. On November 9, 1972, a second hearing was held and the petition was denied.

Because the same issues are raised in each instance, we have permitted appellant to consolidate this appeal from the denial of his PCHA petition and his appeal

[ 454 Pa. Page 70]

    nunc pro tunc from the denial of post-trial motions. We affirm the lower court's determinations.

Appellant has testified that, due to his lack of intelligence, he did not understand the consequences of his guilty plea and that neither his attorneys nor the judge discussed the significance of that plea with him. He contends that the burden of proving his plea was knowing, intelligent and voluntary should rest with the Commonwealth where the record, as here, is silent.

In Commonwealth ex rel. West v. Rundle, 428 Pa. 102, 237 A.2d 196 (1968), we held that henceforth in Pennsylvania an on-the-record examination of the defendant must be conducted to determine if the plea was knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily entered. Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238 (1969) gave that mandate a "federal constitutional dimension." See Commonwealth v. Brown, 443 Pa. 21, 25, 275 A.2d 332, 334 (1971). Later we held that in cases questioning guilty pleas based upon silent records and entered after January 3, 1968,*fn2 the burden of proof would shift from the appellant to the Commonwealth. Commonwealth v. McBride, 440 Pa. 81, 83, 269 A.2d 737, 739 (1970); Commonwealth v. Cushnie, 433 Pa. 131, 135, 249 A.2d 290, 293 (1969). Appellant requests that we fix the burden of proof of voluntariness in pre-1968 silent record guilty pleas upon the Commonwealth. He relies on recent decisions involving silent records where not guilty pleas were entered.

In Commonwealth v. Anderson, 441 Pa. 483, 272 A.2d 877 (1971), this Court determined that the appellant was denied his right to a meaningful appeal since there was no transcript of the proceedings below and the Commonwealth could not construct an ...


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