Charles C. Brown, Jr., Dist. Atty., Bellfonte, for appellant.
Robert L. Martin, Public Defender, Bellfonte, for appellee.
Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Jones, C. J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Manderino, J., concurs in the result. Pomeroy, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
Prior to 1973, the Pennsylvania Constitution provided, with minor exceptions, that "No person shall, for any indictable offense, be proceeded against criminally by information
. . . ." Article I, section 10, P.S. On November 6, 1973, the voters of the Commonwealth approved an amendment to section 10. It now reads:
"Except as hereinafter provided no person shall, for any indictable offense, be proceeded against criminally by information . . . . Each of the several courts of common pleas may, with the approval of the Supreme Court, provide for the initiation of criminal proceedings therein by information filed in the manner provided by law."
The Legislature and this Court have adopted legislation and rules implementing amended section 10. Act of October 10, 1974, P.L. --, No. 238, §§ 1-6 (to be codified as 17 P.S. §§ 271-276); Pa.R.Crim.P. 3, 225-32, 240, 19 P.S. Appendix. Section 5 of the Act provides that no grand jury shall be impaneled for the consideration of indictments in those judicial districts which have received the approval of this Court to substitute informations*fn1 for indictments*fn2 as the method for the initiation of criminal proceedings.*fn3 In those districts, criminal proceedings
are henceforth to be initiated by an information prepared by the attorney for the Commonwealth and filed with the court of common pleas. Pa.R.Crim.P. 225.
On November 13, 1973, the Court of Common Pleas for the Forty-ninth Judicial District (Centre County) promulgated an order providing that in that district "criminal proceedings shall be instituted by information filed in the manner provided by law without the necessity of an indicting grand jury." This Court approved the order on January 6, 1975.
Meanwhile, Alfred Webster was charged by complaint on December 2, 1974, with escaping from the Centre County prison in violation of 18 Pa.C.S. § 5121 (1973) while being held in lieu of bail on charges of robbery and conspiracy. He waived a preliminary hearing. On January 6, 1975, Webster was arraigned, at which time he entered a plea of not guilty and requested that a bill of indictment be submitted to a grand jury for its consideration. He was informed by the attorney for the ...