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COMMONWEALTH v. VAN HILLSMAN (06/21/74)

SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: June 21, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
VAN HILLSMAN, APPELLANT

Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Blair County, Oct. T., 1970, Nos. 56 and 92, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Herschel Van Hillsman, a/k/a Homer Reed.

COUNSEL

Herschel Van Hillsman, appellant, in propria persona.

Amos Davis, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Watkins, P. J., Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, and Spaeth, JJ. Opinion by Price, J.

Author: Price

[ 229 Pa. Super. Page 468]

Appellant, Herschel Van Hillsman, was convicted on January 19, 1971, by a Blair County jury of burglary, larceny, and possession of burglary tools in connection with a burglary of an Allegheny Airlines office in the Terminal Building at the Blair County Airport at Martinsburg. Appellant's timely motions for arrest of judgment and for a new trial were denied by the lower court on July 8, 1971, and he was sentenced on July 19, 1971, to seven and one-half to fifteen years for the burglary, one to two years for the larceny, and a suspended sentence for possession of burglary tools, all to run concurrently. The convictions were affirmed by this court's per curiam order, 221 Pa. Superior Ct. 711, 288 A.2d 544 (1972), and allocatur was denied by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

This appeal raises issues concerning alleged trial errors*fn1 and ineffective assistance of trial counsel*fn2 in a petition pursuant to the Post Conviction Hearing Act, 1966, Jan. 25, P. L. (1965) 1580 (19 P.S. § 1180-1 et seq.) The Court of Common Pleas of Blair County dismissed

[ 229 Pa. Super. Page 469]

    the petition without a hearing, noting that "all matters complained of [were] properly the subject of the direct appeals which were taken and disposed of. . . ." We are in agreement with the lower court's disposition of the allegations of trial error. We do not, however, agree with the lower court's dismissal, without hearing, of the issue of alleged ineffective assistance of trial counsel, and, therefore, remand the petition for an evidentiary hearing on this issue.

It is well settled that if "a petition alleges facts that if proven would entitle the petitioner to relief, the court shall grant a hearing. . . ." Post Conviction Hearing Act, supra § 9; Commonwealth v. Benjamin, 219 Pa. Superior Ct. 344, 280 A.2d 625 (1971); Commonwealth v. Johnson, 431 Pa. 522, 246 A.2d 345 (1968). This is especially true if the petition alleges ineffective counsel. Commonwealth v. Benjamin, supra; Commonwealth v. Young, 218 Pa. Superior Ct. 272, 275 A.2d 866 (1971); Commonwealth v. Rush, 212 Pa. Superior Ct. 437, 243 A.2d 159 (1968).

The record is inadequate to properly assess the merits of appellant's contention that he was denied representation by competent counsel, although it is clear that the claim has not been previously raised and passed upon by the lower court. Appellant has properly raised this issue by petition and has alleged facts which entitle him to a hearing on the merits of his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.

The order of the court below dated December 10, 1973, is vacated and remanded for hearing consistent with this opinion.

Disposition

Order vacated and case remanded for hearing.


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