John P. Liekar, Public Defender, Washington, for appellant.
Paul Petro, Washington, for appellee.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. Nix, J., concurs in the result. Manderino, J., files a dissenting opinion in which Roberts, J., joins.
On May 20, 1976, the appellant Joseph A. Rosmon, Jr., tendered a plea of guilty to murder of the third degree and, following an extensive colloquy, the plea was accepted by the trial judge. In accordance with a plea bargain between appellant and the District Attorney, a sentence of imprisonment of eight to twenty years was recommended and was imposed by the court. On July 27, 1976, Rosmon petitioned the trial court for permission to withdraw his plea of guilty.*fn1 The court en banc denied the petition and this appeal followed. We affirm the order of the trial court.
The record discloses that appellant entered a tavern in Washington County and, accompanied by a young woman, proceeded to a pool table in the rear of the bar. There they encountered Richard and Nancy Coen. The two couples played pool until a heated argument broke out between the two men. Testimony at the coroner's hearing conflicted as to whether or not Coen at any time struck Rosmon, but it is agreed that Coen was unarmed. When the Coens attempted to leave the tavern, Rosmon produced a .22 caliber pistol from his coat pocket and, stationing himself between the Coens and the exit, threatened to shoot Richard Coen. The police were called, and entered the premises as Rosmon was backing toward the door, his gun aimed at Coen. The presence of the police went unheeded, whereupon one of the officers attempted to prevent Rosmon from firing. Rosmon nevertheless pulled the trigger, killing a bystander. Rosmon was heard to exclaim, "I shot the wrong man."
The foregoing facts were established at the guilty plea hearing and were admitted by the appellant. The trial judge then proceeded to explain fully what a guilty plea connoted and the consequences of entering such a plea. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Rodgers, 465 Pa. 379, 350 A.2d 815 (1976); Commonwealth v. Ingram, 455 Pa. 198, 316 A.2d 77 (1974); Pa.R.Crim.P. 319(a). In the course of this explanation, wherein the judge stated that such a plea would serve to abandon any claim of self-defense, the following exchange occurred:
"[THE COURT:] . . . Now, you have also referred to the fact that you thought, or that you didn't know what Coen had in mind at the time of your confrontation with
him. Now, under the law of Pennsylvania, if a defendant reasonably believes that the force he used was necessary to protect himself ...