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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. FRANK E. JOHNSON (03/18/75)

decided: March 18, 1975.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
FRANK E. JOHNSON, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

Vincent J. Ziccardi, Defender, John W. Packel, Chief, Appeals Div., Defender Assn. of Phila., Philadelphia, for appellant.

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Jr., Dist. Atty., Richard A. Sprague, 1st Asst. Dist. Atty., David Richman, 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.

Author: Pomeroy

[ 460 Pa. Page 304]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This appeal stems from appellant's plea of guilty to a general charge of murder in 1961 and his subsequent efforts

[ 460 Pa. Page 305]

    to obtain judicial review of the validity of that plea.

On January 27, 1961, Frank Johnson, the appellant, appeared at a Philadelphia police station and voluntarily surrendered himself in connection with the fatal stabbing of his mother-in-law, Mattie Aquilar. Johnson gave a written confession to the police,*fn1 the essence of which was that Johnson had stabbed his mother-in-law the previous evening during the course of a heated argument, and while he was intoxicated. Johnson was thereupon formally arrested and charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter.

On October 30, 1961, when his case was called for trial, appellant, represented by counsel, pleaded guilty to murder generally, the District Attorney certifying to the court that the crime rose no higher than murder in the second degree. After receiving evidence presented by the Commonwealth and appellant, the court accepted the plea and found appellant guilty of murder in the second degree. Sentence of imprisonment of ten to twenty years was imposed. No appeal was then taken from the judgment of sentence.

During the next several years, Johnson unsuccessfully attempted to obtain the transcript of his degree of guilt hearing in order that he might challenge his conviction. Finally, in 1968, he filed a pro se petition for collateral relief under the Post Conviction Hearing Act.*fn2

On July 25, 1968, following a hearing on the petition, the PCHA court concluded that at the time appellant was sentenced he had not been advised of his appellate rights, and ordered that appellant be permitted to file a direct ...


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