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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. BRUCE ALAN WILLIAMS (05/01/79)

decided: May 1, 1979.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
BRUCE ALAN WILLIAMS, APPELLANT



No. 29 March Term, 1978, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County, Criminal Division, in No. 1066 of 1975.

COUNSEL

John J. Petrush, McClain, Petrush, Young & Miller (Court-appointed), Beaver Falls, for appellant.

John Lee Brown, Jr., Asst. Dist. Atty., Beaver, for appellee.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 485 Pa. Page 138]

OPINION OF THE COURT

On April 1, 1976, appellant pleaded guilty to murder of the second degree and was sentenced to life imprisonment. No appeal was taken from the judgment of sentence. In January of 1977, appellant filed a pro se petition under the Post Conviction Hearing Act, 19 P.S. §§ 1180-1 et seq., seeking to set aside his guilty plea. Counsel was appointed and an amended petition was filed. After an evidentiary hearing, the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County denied the petition. This appeal followed.

[ 485 Pa. Page 139]

Ralph F. Aumack was found dead in his home on the afternoon of October 30, 1975. An autopsy revealed that his death was caused by a gunshot wound to the head. Appellant, then fifteen years of age, was arrested on the evening of the next day. He was given Miranda warnings by police and without consulting an interested adult admitted that he shot the victim.

According to appellant's confession the victim caught appellant in the act of burglarizing the victim's home. After the victim phoned the police, appellant attempted to flee and a struggle ensued. The victim knocked appellant down and began choking him. Appellant then pulled a gun from his pocket and shot the victim. After taking the victim's wallet and other articles, appellant left the scene in the victim's car.

On November 3, 1975, an information was filed against appellant charging him with murder of the first and second degree. The Commonwealth possessed evidence that, contrary to appellant's confession, appellant had planned the killing. The Commonwealth agreed that if appellant pleaded guilty to murder of the second degree he would not be tried for murder of the first degree. Appellant entered his guilty plea in accordance with this plea agreement.

Appellant contends that the post-conviction hearing court erred in refusing to set aside his guilty plea. He argues that he is entitled to collateral relief on three grounds: (1) that his plea was the result of an illegal confession and that his counsel was ineffective in failing to move for its suppression; (2) that although appellant stated a defense of self-protection during his guilty plea colloquy the record of that colloquy fails to demonstrate a knowing waiver of that defense; and (3) that trial counsel's failure to advise appellant of the availability of the defense of self-protection rendered the plea involuntary, unknowing, and unintelligent. Review of appellant's claims satisfies us that they are

[ 485 Pa. Page 140]

    unmeritorious. We therefore affirm the post-conviction hearing court's ...


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