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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. WILLIAM JASPER (01/29/76)

decided: January 29, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
WILLIAM JASPER, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

John C. Anderson, Philadelphia, for appellant.

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Suzanne B. Ercole, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Pomeroy, J., filed a concurring opinion in which Manderino, J., joins.

Author: Jones

[ 472 Pa. Page 228]

OPINION

Appellant, William Jasper, was indicted on March 6, 1974, for the murder of one David Hall which occurred on February 5, 1974. The victim died from gunshot wounds of the chest and thorax. The shooting occurred in a public poolroom and the Commonwealth could produce witnesses who would identify appellant as the person who fired the shots. In addition, appellant confessed to the shooting.

On March 28, 1975, appellant and his attorney appeared before the lower court judge and there appellant pled guilty to murder generally and the District Attorney of Philadelphia stipulated that the evidence rose no higher than murder in the second degree. A lengthy colloquy among the judge, defense attorney, district attorney and the appellant ensued. After a review of the facts the trial judge accepted the plea and found appellant guilty of murder in the second degree. Following a pre-sentencing investigation ordered by the court, appellant was sentenced to a term in prison of not less than two and one half (2 1/2) nor more than ten (10) years. This direct appeal followed.*fn1

Here, appellant questions (1) the validity of his guilty plea and (2) whether the evidence was sufficient to warrant

[ 472 Pa. Page 229]

    a conviction of murder in the second degree. In view of our disposition of the former claim it is not necessary for us to discuss further appellant's latter contention.

The constitutional standard, as well as the reasons therefor, to be applied in testing the validity of a guilty plea is well stated in Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742, 90 S.Ct. 1463, 25 L.Ed.2d 747 (1969):

"That a guilty plea is a grave and solemn act to be accepted only with care and discernment has long been recognized. Central to the plea and the foundation for entering judgment against the defendant is the defendant's admission in open court that he committed the acts charged in the indictment. He thus stands as a witness against himself and he is shielded by the Fifth Amendment from being compelled to do so -- hence the minimum requirement that his plea be the voluntary expression of his own choice. [Citations omitted]. But the plea is more than an admission of past conduct; it is the defendant's consent that judgment of conviction may be entered without a trial -- a waiver of his right to trial before a jury or a judge. Waivers of constitutional rights not only must be voluntary but must be knowing, intelligent acts done with sufficient awareness of the relevant circumstances and likely consequences." [Citations omitted]. 397 U.S. at 748, 90 S.Ct. at 1468.

This Court has stated this standard in similar language. See Commonwealth v. Morales, 458 Pa. 18, 326 A.2d 331 (1974); Commonwealth v. Ingram, 455 Pa. 198, 316 A.2d 77 (1974); Commonwealth v. Slavik, 449 Pa. 424, 297 A.2d 920 ...


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