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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ROBERT LEE MONTGOMERY (11/24/76)

decided: November 24, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
ROBERT LEE MONTGOMERY, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

John Sughrue, Public Defender, Richard H. Milgrub, Asst. Public Defender, for appellant.

Richard A. Bell, Dist. Atty., for appellee.

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

Author: O'brien

[ 469 Pa. Page 375]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This appeal arises from a guilty plea by appellant, Robert Lee Montgomery, to a general charge of murder in connection with the deaths of Dorothy Knepp and Donald Snyder. On August 13, 1973, appellant was adjudged guilty of two counts of murder in the first degree and sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment. This appeal followed.

The facts surrounding this appeal are as follows. On January 22, 1972, Dorothy Knepp and Donald Snyder were shot and killed at the Windmill Tavern, Clearfield County, by appellant, Robert Lee Montgomery.

On January 15, 1973, appellant pled guilty to each of the two counts of murder generally. The trial judge, after a "guilty plea colloquy" heard the Commonwealth's evidence. The hearing was continued until February 5, 1973, at which time the testimony was concluded, but the court did not render an adjudication of guilt or impose sentence.

On March 6, 1973, appellant wrote to the trial judge requesting a hearing be held so that he could withdraw his guilty plea. Appellant stated the shooting was an "accident," and he mistakenly believed he could still raise

[ 469 Pa. Page 376]

    that defense on appeal even though he pled guilty to a general charge of murder. Appellant also requested a jury trial. On March 12, 1973, the court below, without a hearing or prior notification to defense counsel or the district attorney, denied appellant's requests.

On August 13, 1973, appellant was sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment at a state correctional institution for the murders of Dorothy Knepp and Donald Snyder.

We are of the opinion that the case should be remanded for a counseled evidentiary hearing to consider appellant's request to withdraw his guilty plea. Appellant's letter of March 6, 1973 lists three possible reasons, if sustained ...


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