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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ROBERT LITTLE (07/06/76)

decided: July 6, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
ROBERT LITTLE, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

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

Robert E. Colville, Dist. Atty., Robert L. Eberhardt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Roberts, J., concurs in the result.

Author: Eagen

[ 468 Pa. Page 14]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is the second appeal to this Court arising out of a petition filed by Robert Little seeking post conviction relief under the Act of January 25, 1966, P.L. (1965) 1580, 19 P.S. ยง 1180-1 et seq. (Supp.1975-1976). See Commonwealth v. Little, 455 Pa. 163, 314 A.2d 270 (1974). The procedural history is somewhat involved and the events relevant to this appeal will be presented chronologically.

[ 468 Pa. Page 15]

Appellant, Robert Little, was arrested on September 7, 1969 in connection with the death of one Fred Galloway. He was arraigned September 7 before Allegheny County Deputy Coroner Michael J. Cassidy. A coroner's inquest, at which Little was represented by privately retained counsel, was held before Deputy Coroner Cassidy on September 11, 1969 after which Little was held for grand jury action. The grand jury returned indictments charging murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter. On the advice of trial counsel, and following plea negotiations between his counsel and the district attorney's office, the latter stipulated that if a plea of guilty were entered it would agree that the court adjudge Little guilty of murder of the second degree. Little entered a general plea of guilty to murder, and was adjudged guilty of murder of the second degree. Little was then sentenced to not less than ten nor more than twenty years imprisonment. No post verdict motions were filed and no appeal was entered from the judgment of sentence.

Little subsequently filed a petition under the Post Conviction Hearing Act seeking a new trial and alleging as grounds: (1) a statement introduced into evidence against him was obtained from him without the assistance of counsel at a time when counsel was required; (2) he was denied representation by competent counsel; and (3) his plea of guilty to murder was unlawfully induced. The post conviction court did not pass directly on these questions. Instead, it entered an order directing that Little be discharged based on what the court concluded were procedural irregularities which occurred before Little entered his plea to the indictment returned against him. The Commonwealth appealed that order to this Court and this Court reversed and remanded for a determination of the issues presented in the PCHA petition as filed. Commonwealth v. Little, supra.

[ 468 Pa. Page 16]

A hearing on the petition ensued in the trial court and the testimony of the prior hearing was incorporated and made part of the record of the second hearing. Subsequently, an order and opinion denying relief were entered. This appeal followed.

In this appeal, Little presents only one issue for our determination. He contends that his plea was involuntarily induced since he was deprived of competent counsel at the time it was entered. He presents counsel's failure to file a motion to suppress a statement Little made to the police immediately after his arrest and counsel's failure to pursue and question certain procedural irregularities to show that counsel did not adequately represent him.*fn1

Initially, Little points to a statement made by his trial counsel on direct examination at the first PCHA hearing as showing counsel's narrow ...


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