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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. MORRIS HARGROVE (07/07/75)

decided: July 7, 1975.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
MORRIS HARGROVE, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

John J. Dean, John H. Corbett, Jr., Pittsburgh, for appellant.

John J. Hickton, Dist. Atty., Robert L. Eberhardt, Asst. Dist. Atty., R. L. Campbell, Pittsburgh, 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. Nix, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Author: Eagen

[ 462 Pa. Page 565]

Opinion OF THE COURT

On February 4, 1963, the appellant, Morris Hargrove, while assisted by counsel, entered a plea of guilty to murder in Allegheny County. An evidentiary hearing followed after which Hargrove was adjudged guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to life imprisonment. A direct appeal from the judgment of sentence is now before us.*fn1

Herein, the validity of Hargrove's 1963 guilty plea is attacked on two grounds:

First, it is urged the plea should be set aside as not knowingly and intelligently entered because the record of

[ 462 Pa. Page 566]

    the plea proceedings establishes that, before the plea was accepted, the trial court failed to conduct an adequate inquiry or colloquy to determine if Hargrove were aware of the impact and consequences of a guilty plea. This position will not be sustained.

Since the instant plea was entered prior to our decision in Commonwealth ex rel. West v. Rundle, 428 Pa. 102, 237 A.2d 196 (1968), the burden of proving that the guilty plea was not knowing and intelligent was upon Hargrove. Commonwealth v. Riley, 444 Pa. 498, 282 A.2d 231 (1971). An opportunity to establish this was given Hargrove at a counseled hearing on his petition for post conviction relief. The credibility of the witnesses at this hearing was for the hearing judge and he saw fit, as was his right, to believe the testimony of Hargrove's trial counsel, which clearly demonstrated that before entering his plea, Hargrove was completely aware of what he was doing and entered the plea fully cognizant of its impact and possible consequences.

[ 462 Pa. Page 567]

The second reason advanced to set aside the guilty plea is that "after entering his plea [Hargrove] testified to facts which if believed, would establish a legitimate claim to the affirmative defense of self-defense". Cf. Commonwealth v. Roundtree, 440 Pa. 199, 269 A.2d 709 (1970). The present case, however, does not fall within the rationale of Roundtree and its progeny. Roundtree is only applicable where the accused at the time the plea is entered indicates he has a valid defense to the charge. In the instant case, Hargrove, at the time of pleading guilty, did not assert any facts indicating he killed in self-defense. Instead, this claim arose in his ...


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