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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. WILLIAM WALKER (03/18/75)

decided: March 18, 1975.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
WILLIAM WALKER, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

John J. Dean, Stephen P. Swem, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

John J. Hickton, Dist. Atty., Robert L. Eberhardt, Asst. Dist. Atty., John M. Tighe, First Asst. Dist. Atty., Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ.

Author: Jones

[ 460 Pa. Page 660]

OPINION OF THE COURT

On October 11, 1939, appellant William Walker, entered a plea of guilty generally to murder in the shooting death of a Pittsburgh policeman on June 27, 1939. Appellant was represented by court-appointed counsel at the time. After a hearing to determine the degree of guilt, an adjudication of murder in the first degree was made and a life sentence imposed. Walker did not file posttrial motions and no appeal was taken. On September 15, 1960, appellant was paroled and released from custody. On November 26, 1973, appellant filed a Post Conviction Hearing Act petition and counsel was thereafter

[ 460 Pa. Page 661]

    appointed to assist in his collateral attack. On December 10, 1973, the Commonwealth responded with a motion to dismiss the petition. The petition was subsequently dismissed without a hearing, and this appeal followed.

It is well established that any person desiring relief under the Post Conviction Hearing Act of January 25, 1966, P.L. (1965) 1580, § 1, 19 P.S. § 1180-1 et seq., must file a petition stating the grounds for the requested relief and all allegations of fact in support of the alleged errors (19 P.S. § 1180-9). Accordingly, Walker raised five general grounds supporting his right to a PCHA hearing but failed to include specific facts in support of his conclusions.*fn1 To compound the problem, a review of Walker's 1939 trial record adds no factual basis for his alleged errors.*fn2 In light of the dearth of "factual" support, the trial judge determined that, even assuming the truth of appellant's allegations, he was not entitled to relief. We disagree.

Where the record adds no factual support, a petitioner who alleges general claims of "induced guilty plea" and "abridgement of constitutional rights," without more, is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing. See Commonwealth v. Snyder, 427 Pa. 83, 102, 233 A.2d 530, 540 (1967); Commonwealth v. Maroney, 423 Pa. 369, 223 A.2d 706 (1966); Commonwealth ex rel. West v. Myers, 423 Pa. 1, 222 A.2d 918 (1966); Commonwealth ex rel. Ackerman v. Russell, 209 Pa. Super. 467, 228 A.2d 208 (1967).*fn3 Further, where a petitioner's other assertions

[ 460 Pa. Page 662]

    only relate to nonretroactive rights non-existent at the time of conviction, he need not be heard.*fn4 However, where petitioner, as here, alleges that he was not advised of his right to a counseled direct appeal as required by Douglas v. California, 372 U.S. 353, 83 S.Ct. 814, 9 L.Ed.2d 811 (1963),*fn5 and where neither the record nor the Commonwealth disproves such assertion, an evidentiary hearing is warranted.*fn6 Commonwealth v. Taylor, 439 Pa. 321, 266 A.2d 676 (1970); Commonwealth v. Zaffina, 432 Pa. 435, 248 A.2d 5 (1968). See also Commonwealth v. Musser, 437 Pa. 131, 262 A.2d 678 (1970); Commonwealth v. Davis, 433 Pa. 267, 249 A.2d 766 (1969); and Commonwealth v. Wilson, 430 Pa. 1, 241 A.2d 760 (1968).

The Commonwealth contends that since Walker's conviction resulted from a guilty plea, if he was in fact denied his right to a counseled direct appeal it was not prejudicial error. This claim is incorrect. We have held that where an accused pleads guilty an ...


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