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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JESSIE CISCERO JOHNSON (01/27/75)

decided: January 27, 1975.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
JESSIE CISCERO JOHNSON, APPELLANT (TWO CASES)



COUNSEL

Peter B. Scuderi, Philadelphia, for appellant.

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Richard A. Sprague, 1st Asst. Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief Appeals Div., James Garrett, Asst. Dist. Atty., Abraham J. Gafni, Deputy Dist. Atty., for Law, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Nix and Manderino, JJ., concur in the result.

Author: Eagen

[ 460 Pa. Page 173]

OPINION OF THE COURT

On September 12, 1972, the appellant, Jessie Ciscero Johnson, represented by counsel, entered a plea of guilty to murder generally. Following a degree of guilt hearing at which the district attorney certified to the court that the crime rose no higher than murder in the second degree, appellant was found guilty of that crime by the trial court and a sentence of five to twenty years was imposed. A direct appeal to this Court was taken from the

[ 460 Pa. Page 174]

    judgment of sentence.*fn1 However, upon the appointment of new counsel, appellant petitioned for remand of the case for the filing of a Post Conviction Hearing Act petition.*fn2 On July 3, 1973, we granted this petition through a per curiam order and the post-conviction petition was duly filed. On October 3, 1973, post-conviction relief was denied after a counseled evidentiary hearing, and an appeal was taken from such denial.*fn3 Both the appeal from the denial of post-conviction relief and the direct appeal from the judgment of sentence were subsequently consolidated for argument before this Court and will be disposed of in this one opinion.

The appellant asserts the plea was invalid as not being "voluntarily and understandingly made" because the evidence adduced at the guilty plea hearing established a valid defense to the charge. It is well settled that to be constitutionally valid, "a plea of guilty must have been voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently made by defendant, i. e., with an understanding of the nature of the charges against him, his right to a jury trial and an awareness of the consequences of his plea." Commonwealth v. Enty, 442 Pa. 39, 40, 271 A.2d 926, 929 (1971). See also Commonwealth v. Roundtree, 440 Pa. 199, 269 A.2d 709 (1970); Commonwealth ex rel. West v. Rundle, 428 Pa. 102, 237 A.2d 196 (1968); Commonwealth ex rel. Barnosky v. Maroney, 414 Pa. 161, 199 A.2d 424 (1964). But where the defendant, though pleading guilty, testifies to what amounts to a complete defense to the crime charged, the guilty plea cannot be considered a knowing and intelligent act and should not be accepted. Commonwealth v. Blackman, 446 Pa. 61, 285

[ 460 Pa. Page 175]

A.2d 521 (1971); Commonwealth v. Roundtree, supra. Commonwealth v. Cottrell, 433 Pa. 177, 249 A.2d 294 (1969). Appellant contends the trial court erred in accepting his guilty plea because certain evidence, presented by stipulation, indicated a possibility of accidental homicide or the defense of self-defense. Specifically, appellant claims his statement to the police introduced into evidence through the stipulation, emphasizes that he unintentionally fired the weapon. An examination of the stipulated facts is, therefore, necessary.*fn4

On April 12, 1972, the appellant returned home from his neighbor's house and found his wife Elizabeth, preparing lunch. After inquiring what there was to eat, the appellant went over to the oven and placed his hand into the pot, hoping to retrieve some ham. Before he could remove his hand from the pot, Elizabeth put the lid down upon it. The appellant pushed his wife away and went upstairs to the bedroom where he took his loaded gun from the dresser. He proceeded back downstairs and confronted his wife. While pointing the gun at her, the appellant said, "I know you been running around with John." After denying the accusation, Elizabeth swung a butcher knife at the appellant. Although the appellant told his wife to back off and fired a shot at the floor, she again swung her arm at the appellant and ...


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