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COMMONWEALTH v. COLEMAN (10/16/74)

SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: October 16, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
COLEMAN, APPELLANT

Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Aug. T., 1972, No. 1243, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Clinton J. Coleman.

COUNSEL

Edward J. O'Halloran, with him O'Halloran, Stack & Smith, P. C., for appellant.

William P. Boland, Assistant District Attorney, with him David Richman, 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. Justice Pomeroy.

Author: Pomeroy

[ 458 Pa. Page 324]

Appellant, Clinton Coleman, was indicted for the murder of Claude Thomas, the three-year-old son of a

[ 458 Pa. Page 325]

    woman with whom Coleman had recently taken up residence. Before his trial Coleman filed a motion to suppress various statements which he had given to the police at the time of and subsequent to his arrest. The motion to suppress was denied, and in due course, Coleman was tried before a judge sitting without a jury and found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. In a colloquy between Coleman, his counsel, and the trial judge following the announcement of the verdict, appellant indicated that he did not wish to file any post-verdict motions. Sentencing was deferred pending a pre-sentence investigation and psychiatric examination. Six weeks later, Coleman was sentenced to not less than three-and-a-half nor more than ten years imprisonment in a state correctional institution with psychiatric treatment facilities. Coleman has appealed from this judgment of sentence.

Appellant contends that the lower court erred in denying his suppression motion, and also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain his conviction. We will not pass on these contentions, for we are of the opinion that appellant has waived his right to have them reviewed. As a general rule, issues not raised in support of post-verdict motions will not be considered on appeal, Commonwealth v. Reid, 458 Pa. 357, 326 A.2d 267 (1974); Commonwealth v. Bittner, 441 Pa. 216, 221, 272 A.2d 484 (1971), and appellant has voluntarily relinquished his opportunity to file such motions.

Post-verdict motions serve the dual function of allowing the trial court to rectify errors which may have been committed at trial, and of framing and clarifying the issues to be considered should there be an appeal. Because such motions are a critical step in the post-conviction review process, we will scrutinize closely any waiver of the right to file them in order to ensure that the defendant has acted voluntarily and with a full

[ 458 Pa. Page 326]

    understanding of his rights. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Littlejohn, 433 Pa. 336, 250 A.2d 811 (1969); Commonwealth ex rel. Robinson v. Myers, 427 Pa. 104, 233 A.2d 220 (1967); Commonwealth ex rel. Fink v. Rundle, 423 Pa. 133, 222 A.2d 717 (1966). On the other hand, as we said in Commonwealth v. Wallace, 427 Pa. 110, 113, 233 A.2d 218, 220 (1967), "a defendant, who deliberately and knowingly chooses to bypass the orderly state procedures afforded one convicted of a crime for challenging his conviction, is bound by the consequences of that decision." See also Commonwealth v. Bolognese, 428 Pa. 405, 239 A.2d 307 (1968); Commonwealth ex rel. Harbold v. Rundle, 427 Pa. 117, 233 A.2d 261 (1967); Commonwealth ex rel. Harbold v. Myers, 417 Pa. 358, 207 A.2d 805 (1965).

[ 458 Pa. Page 327]

In the case at bar, appellant does not dispute what plainly appears from the record: his decision not to file post-verdict motions was a deliberate, intelligent and voluntary act.*fn1 Here, as in Commonwealth ex rel. Harbold Page 327} v. Myers, supra, at 364-65, 207 A.2d at 808, "[t]his is not a case where the defendant did not himself choose to forgo [sic] the normal post-trial procedures. Neither is this a case where failure to pursue the established procedure was due to mere neglect or inadvertence. Nor is it a case where the defendant can plausibly deny either that he understood the alternatives open to him or deny that he comprehended the consequences of his [decision not to seek relief by post-verdict motions]." Under these circumstances, appellant is bound by his decision to waive the filing of post-verdict motions, and may not raise on appeal any issues which should have been raised in support of such motions.*fn2

[ 458 Pa. Page 328]

Judgment of sentence affirmed.

Disposition

Judgment of sentence affirmed.


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