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COMMONWEALTH v. SCHORK (09/23/74)

decided: September 23, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
SCHORK, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgments of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, July T., 1973, Nos. 1549, 1550, and 1551, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Dennis Schork.

COUNSEL

Joel Every, Carl T. Bogus, and Steinberg, Greenstein, Richman & Price, for appellant.

Douglas B. Richardson, Mark Sendrow, David Richman, and Steven H. Goldblatt, Assistant District Attorneys, Abraham J. Gafni, Deputy District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Van Der Voort

[ 230 Pa. Super. Page 412]

In the above captioned case, the appellant pleaded guilty to various charges; the guilty pleas were entered prior to January 24, 1974. The appellant claims that the decision in Commonwealth v. Ingram, 455 Pa. 198, 316 A.2d 77 (1974) (decided January 24, 1974), should be applied to his appeals. In Ingram, as more fully discussed, infra, our Supreme Court dealt with the subject of the adequacy of colloquies required prior to the acceptance of guilty pleas by our trial courts. In light of the multitude of appeals reaching this Court and the

[ 230 Pa. Super. Page 413]

Supreme Court each year challenging the sufficiency of guilty plea colloquies, it can certainly be expected that many, like the instant appeal, will argue that the holding in Ingram should be applied retroactively. For this reason, we deem it both judicially wise and necessary to examine this retroactivity issue promptly in order to provide a guide for future appeals. Thus, prior to discussing the claims arising in the instant case, we will discuss the application of Ingram.

In Ingram, the appellant claimed inter alia, that the on-the-record colloquy prior to his guilty plea to murder was deficient under the requirements of Rule 319 (a) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure.*fn1 The Supreme Court, after a discussion of prior cases*fn2 relating to Rule 319(a) and requirements for valid colloquies held that ". . . the record must disclose that the elements of the crime or crimes charged were outlined in understandable terms (to the defendant at the time of the plea)." 455 Pa. at 203-204, 316 A.2d at 80. This explanation of the legal elements of the crime was held necessary to assure that the defendant has an understanding of the charge or charges prior to the entry of his plea.*fn3

[ 230 Pa. Super. Page 414]

It is, as stated supra, the sole issue for resolution in this part of this opinion whether or not we should retroactively apply the Ingram holding. In the recent case of Commonwealth v. Lockhart, 227 Pa. Superior Ct. 503, 322 A.2d 707 (1974), this Court dealt with the issue of whether the decision in Commonwealth v. Williams, 454 Pa. 368, 312 A.2d 597 (1973) should be afforded retroactive application. Williams concerned the "essential elements" of a jury trial with which a defendant must be familiar before a waiver of the right to a jury trial can be accepted. Lockhart is particularly relevant in that it demonstrated the policy considerations which this Court must consider in resolutions such as the instant one and moreover, such policy considerations in Lockhart were those that had been enunciated in guilty plea cases. In Lockhart, we found persuasive the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's reasoning in Commonwealth v. Godfrey, 434 Pa. 532, 536, 254 A.2d 923, 925 (1969)*fn4 where it was stated: "(I)t is staggering to the imagination to contemplate the chaos which would result if Boykin were applied retrospectively. The overwhelming majority of all convictions result from guilty pleas. In a great many of these cases, inadequate 'on-the-record' examinations were conducted. This would mean that countless cases would have to be retried if Boykin were applied retroactively." This Court, in the careful review of the huge number of appeals reaching it each year is manifestly cognizant of the high percentage of criminal litigants who elect to

[ 230 Pa. Super. Page 415]

    plead guilty to criminal charges in the Pennsylvania trial courts each year. In the instant situation, we must likewise recognize that retrospective application of Ingram will result in the mandatory reversal in scores of appeals in such cases. Such a holding would clearly create the same havoc in the administration of justice which we found loathsome to contemplate in Lockhart. We also feel that the Ingram holding, further refining the standards for colloquies, no more compelling for retroactive application than the landmark Boykin decision which enunciated the ...


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