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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JOSEPH FRANK MITCHELL (03/23/78)

decided: March 23, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
JOSEPH FRANK MITCHELL, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

Defender Assn. of Philadelphia, Benjamin Lerner, Defender John W. Packel, Chief, Appeals Div. Asst. Public Defender, for appellant.

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

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. Roberts, J., files a dissenting opinion. Manderino, J., files a dissenting opinion. Nix, J., dissents.

Author: O'brien

[ 477 Pa. Page 276]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This appeal is from an order of the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, denying relief on a Post Conviction Hearing Act petition filed by appellant, Joseph Frank Mitchell.

Appellant was convicted by a jury of murder of the first degree for the 1966 slaying of Doris Shenk. Post-verdict motions were denied and appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment. On direct appeal, we affirmed the judgment of sentence. Commonwealth v. Mitchell, 445 Pa. 461, 285 A.2d 93 (1971).

[ 477 Pa. Page 277]

In June of 1975, appellant filed a pro se Post Conviction Hearing Act petition. Counsel was appointed, and in November, 1975, an amended petition was filed. Following a March, 1976 hearing, the court below denied appellant's petition in June, 1976. This appeal followed.

Appellant first claims that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel for a number of reasons. In Com. ex rel. Washington v. Maroney, 427 Pa. 599, 604-05, 235 A.2d 349, 352 (1967), we stated:

". . . our inquiry ceases and counsel's assistance is deemed constitutionally effective once we are able to conclude that the particular course chosen by counsel had some reasonable basis designed to effectuate his client's interests. The test is not whether other alternatives were more reasonable, employing a hindsight evaluation of the record. Although weigh the alternatives we must, the balance tips in favor of a finding of effective assistance as soon as it is determined that trial counsel's decisions had any reasonable basis." (Emphasis in original.)

We have also held that counsel is not ineffective for failing to raise baseless or frivolous issues. Commonwealth v. Rice, 456 Pa. 90, 318 A.2d 705 (1974). With this standard in mind, we will discuss appellant's claims concerning his trial counsel's effectiveness.

Appellant first claims that trial counsel was ineffective in failing to file a suppression motion related to his confession as the fruit of an illegal arrest. We do not agree.

The facts as found at the suppression hearing are as follows. The victim's nude body was discovered in a vacant house on East Boston Street on October 15, 1966. Police suspected that the victim may also have been sexually assaulted. During their investigation, the police found out that the victim had been seen alive on Thursday evening, October 13, with appellant and four other people. After interviewing some of these witnesses, police discovered that the victim was last seen drinking wine with ...


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