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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. WILLIAM ROUNDTREE (10/20/76)

decided: October 20, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
WILLIAM ROUNDTREE, APPELLANT (TWO CASES)



COUNSEL

Marshall E. Kresman, Philadelphia, for appellant.

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

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ.

Author: Jones

[ 469 Pa. Page 246]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is an appeal from the denial of a petition for relief under the Post Conviction Hearing Act (PCHA).*fn1 Appellant, William Roundtree, was convicted in a non-jury trial on February 28, 1973, of murder in the second degree for the stabbing death of one Nathaniel Davis. The murder occurred on November 10, 1966, and appellant was arrested at the scene. A preliminary hearing was held later in November 1966 and in December 1966 appellant was indicted for murder.

No action was taken in the case until 1970, when it was listed for trial but then continued. There was no further action in the case until the fall of 1972, when the appellant was arrested on an unrelated charge. A routine records check revealed the pending homicide charge. The case was finally brought to trial on February 26, 1973, more than six years from the date of the killing. The inordinate delay was the result of the admitted negligence of the Commonwealth in losing the Quarter Session file and the unexplained placing of William Roundtree's indictment on the deferred indictment list for a portion of the six-year period.

[ 469 Pa. Page 247]

On direct appeal in this case,*fn2 decided in 1974, the sole issue raised was whether appellant was denied his right to a speedy trial as guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 9 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. This Court, at that time, did not find it necessary to reach the merits of appellant's argument since we concluded that appellant had waived his right to a speedy trial.*fn3

The threshold question*fn4 in this appeal is whether appellant failed to receive effective assistance of trial counsel during his trial for the murder of Nathaniel

[ 469 Pa. Page 248]

Davis.*fn5 It is the failure of trial counsel to timely raise the speedy trial claim which is the crux of the present contention of ineffective counsel.

"The right to representation by counsel to be meaningful necessarily includes the right to effective representation." Commonwealth v. Wideman, 453 Pa. 119, 123, 306 A.2d 894, 896 (1973). There is, however, a presumption that counsel's representation was competent, Commonwealth v. Murray, 452 Pa. 282, 305 A.2d 33 (1973); Commonwealth ex rel. Washington v. Maroney, 427 Pa. 599, 235 A.2d 349 (1967), and it is an accepted principle within our criminal justice system "that certain decisions during trial are within the exclusive province of counsel." Commonwealth v. McGrogan, 449 Pa. 584, 297 A.2d 456 (1972). In cases of this nature we are required to make an independent review of the entire record and an examination of counsel's "stewardship" of the now challenged proceedings in view of the available alternatives. Commonwealth ex rel. Washington v. Maroney, 427 Pa. 599, 235 A.2d 349 (1967); Commonwealth ex rel. ...


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