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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. BARRY E. WILLIS (02/28/77)

decided: February 28, 1977.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
BARRY E. WILLIS, APPELLANT (TWO CASES)



COUNSEL

Gary F. DiVito, 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. Jones, C. J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: O'brien

[ 471 Pa. Page 51]

OPINION OF THE COURT

On March 18, 1975, Charles Johnson was shot to death in front of his home on Latona Street, Philadelphia, during the course of a robbery. On May 21, 1975, appellant, Barry E. Willis, was arrested and charged with murder, criminal conspiracy and robbery.

On October 27, 1975, appellant entered pleas of guilty to the indictments charging murder, criminal conspiracy and robbery. The Commonwealth certified that the degree of guilt for the murder indictment would rise no higher than murder in the third degree. On December 2, 1975, appellant was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of five to fifteen years on the murder in the third degree conviction, five to fifteen years on the robbery conviction and five to ten years on the criminal conspiracy conviction. All sentences were to run concurrently.

Appellant has appealed the judgment of sentence on the conviction for murder in the third degree to this court and appealed the judgments of sentence on the robbery and conspiracy convictions to the Superior Court, which certified that appeal to this court.

Appellant argues that the court below erred in failing to inform appellant during the on-the-record guilty plea colloquy of the presumption of innocence. We agree.

In Commonwealth v. Dilbeck, 466 Pa. 543, 353 A.2d 824 (1976), this court stated:

"The Comments to Rule 319(a) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure recommend that 'at a minimum the judge ask questions to ellicit the following information:'

"(1) Does the defendant understand the nature of the charges to which he ...


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