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COMMONWEALTH v. ZAPATA (01/24/74)

decided: January 24, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
ZAPATA, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Superior Court, Oct. T., 1972, No. 234, affirming judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, July T., 1970, No. 1410, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Monserate Zapata.

COUNSEL

Donald M. Moser, for appellant.

Edmond H. Heisler 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. Chief Justice Jones. Mr. Justice Eagen and Mr. Justice Roberts concur in the result.

Author: Jones

[ 455 Pa. Page 206]

On April 23, 1971, appellant was convicted by a jury of aggravated assault and battery and, following the denial of post-trial motions, was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of one to three years. On appeal, the Superior Court unanimously affirmed without

[ 455 Pa. Page 207]

    opinion.*fn1 We granted allocatur and this appeal followed.

At trial, the Commonwealth produced evidence which established that around midnight on May 22, 1970, the appellant administered a severe, unprovoked beating to one Miguel Vergara.*fn2 In response, appellant's testimony indicated that Vergara had been the attacker and that he (appellant) had only struck Vergara four times in self-defense.

Appellant has raised a very interesting question regarding alleged ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. Specifically, he charges that counsel's conduct in revealing his client's two prior convictions for voluntary manslaughter on direct examination constitutes manifest ineffectiveness. Appellant argues that, because these convictions mentioned arose out of crimes committed subsequent to the instant offense and because sentence had not yet been imposed on those convictions, they were not admissible for any purpose. Consequently, it is urged that counsel had no reasonable basis for his decision to bring this evidence out on direct examination.

In order to evaluate appellant's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, it is necessary to first examine the alternatives which were open to counsel at trial and the course chosen. If, upon such examination, we find that counsel had a "reasonable basis" for his action, we will not find ineffectiveness as a matter of law. Commonwealth ex rel. Washington v. Maroney, 427 Pa. 599, 603, 235 A.2d 349, 352 (1967). Conversely, if

[ 455 Pa. Page 208]

    no reasonable basis is evident, we must find that appellant was denied his constitutional right to effective assistance of ...


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