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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ERNEST ALSTON (06/03/77)

decided: June 3, 1977.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
ERNEST ALSTON, JR., APPELLANT



COUNSEL

Leonard S. Wissow, 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, former C. J., did not participate in the decision of this case.

Author: Roberts

[ 473 Pa. Page 43]

OPINION OF THE COURT

In this appeal*fn1 from the denial of post-conviction relief, appellant contends that his plea of guilty entered in 1965 on an indictment charging murder generally was not knowingly and voluntarily entered. We do not agree and affirm the hearing court's order denying appellant's petition.

Appellant and four other youths were indicted on charges arising out of the April 18, 1964 robbery and beating of two men. One of the victims died on April 20, 1964. Appellant was charged with murder, conspiracy, and two counts of aggravated robbery.

The five youths were brought to trial on June 2, 1965, and each pled guilty. Before appellant's plea was entered, John Poserina, one of appellant's two court appointed counsel, stated:

"If Your Honor Pleas [sic], we have spoken to Ernest Alston on several occasions, the most recent of which was this morning in court. We have also spoke [sic] to his father and his grand parents [sic] with whom he lived, both in my office and this morning again. We have explained in detail the consequences of a guilty plea, and they fully understand it and we have their authority to enter it . . . ."

[ 473 Pa. Page 44]

The Commonwealth certified that the murder charge rose no higher than murder of the second degree, and appellant was found guilty of murder of the second degree. The trial court imposed a sentence of three to fifteen years imprisonment on the murder conviction and suspended sentence on the other charges. Appellant was fifteen years old at the time.

Appellant did not appeal from judgment of sentence. On May 2, 1975, appellant filed a petition for post-conviction relief pursuant to the Post Conviction Hearing Act of January 25, 1966, P.L. (1965) 1580, §§ 1 et seq., 19 P.S. §§ 1180-1 et seq. (Supp.1976). Counsel was appointed for petitioner, and a hearing held on October 9, and November 12, 1975.

At the hearing, appellant testified that he pled guilty because Mr. Poserina told him to do so. He testified that Mr. Poserina did not tell him the meaning of a guilty plea, and that he did not discuss the matter with his other court appointed counsel, David Trulli, or with his parents or grandparents. Appellant testified that Mr. Poserina informed him that he probably would be sentenced to three to fifteen years imprisonment if he pled guilty, that an incriminating statement taken from him could be used against him at trial, and that it was in his best interest to plead guilty. Appellant claimed he was not told of the rights he waived by pleading guilty. He also claimed counsel did not explain the degrees of murder, or the possibility of a ...


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