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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. DONALD RUSSELL HOSACK (05/01/79)

decided: May 1, 1979.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
DONALD RUSSELL HOSACK, APPELLANT



No. 23 March Term, 1978, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal of Mercer County at No. 2 December Term, 1968

COUNSEL

Ross E. Cardas, Mercer (Court-appointed), for appellant.

David B. Douds, Asst. Dist. Atty., Mercer, for appellee.

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

Author: O'brien

[ 485 Pa. Page 129]

OPINION OF THE COURT

On September 9, 1968, appellant, Donald Russell Hosack, pleaded guilty in the Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County to murder generally and two counts of rape. A

[ 485 Pa. Page 130]

    three-judge panel held a degree-of-guilt hearing and found him guilty of murder of the first degree. He was sentenced to imprisonment for life for murder and ten to twenty years on each count of rape, the sentences to run consecutively. No direct appeal was filed.

In 1971, appellant filed a petition under the Post Conviction Hearing Act (PCHA)*fn1 in which he sought to withdraw his guilty plea and made various allegations of ineffectiveness of counsel. The post conviction hearing court denied relief. We affirmed. Commonwealth v. Hosack, 459 Pa. 27, 326 A.2d 352 (1974).

Appellant and two co-defendants filed a writ of error coram nobis challenging the legality of the sentence. The post conviction hearing court treated it as a PCHA petition and denied it. We affirmed for failure to explain why the issue was not raised previously. Commonwealth v. McConnell, 470 Pa. 312, 368 A.2d 646 (1977).

In 1977, appellant, with new counsel, filed a third PCHA petition, alleging incompetence on the part of prior counsel for failing to raise certain matters. The trial court denied the petition without holding an evidentiary hearing. Appellant has appealed the court's order, alleging that he was entitled to a hearing.

Appellant contends that he was not advised of his rights at the time of his arrest. If this is so, appellant was not prejudiced because he was not questioned and did not make any statement. Appellant could not have been helped by counsel contending that he was not advised of his rights. Counsel is effective if his or her chosen course of action had a reasonable basis designed to effectuate the client's interest. Com. ex rel. Washington v. Maroney, 427 Pa. 599, 235 A.2d 349 (1967). Moreover, counsel is not deemed ineffective for not pursuing meritless claims. Commonwealth v. Rice, 456 Pa. 90, 318 A.2d ...


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