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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. RAYMOND R. JOHNSON (07/03/80)

decided: July 3, 1980.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
RAYMOND R. JOHNSON, APPELLANT



No. 74 May Term, 1979, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of York County, Pennsylvania, No. 1525 October Sessions, 1974, Denying Relief under the Post Conviction Hearing Act.

COUNSEL

Daniel M. Pell, Easton, for appellant.

Sheryl Ann Dorney, Asst. Dist. Atty., for appellee.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 490 Pa. Page 314]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant Raymond R. Johnson was charged with criminal homicide in the stabbing and shotgun death of Charles Jeffers. Commonwealth trial testimony established that co-defendant Suzanne Ella Grendell telephoned Jeffers and asked him to come to her house. When he arrived, he was stabbed approximately seventeen times and shot with a shotgun by appellant and two other accomplices. Appellant was convicted by jury of murder of the first degree and

[ 490 Pa. Page 315]

    sentenced to life imprisonment. This Court affirmed judgment of sentence. Commonwealth v. Johnson, 474 Pa. 410, 378 A.2d 859 (1977). Throughout these proceedings appellant was represented by the same counsel.

Appellant now seeks relief under the Post Conviction Hearing Act, Act of January 25, 1966, P.L. (1965) 1580, ยงยง 1 et seq., 19 P.S. ยงยง 1180-1 et seq. After a counseled hearing, the PCHA court held that appellant's claimed denial of due process and eight claims of ineffective assistance lack merit. We affirm.

Appellant contends that he was denied due process because his alleged use of thorazine throughout his trial rendered him incapable of comprehending the proceedings. The PCHA court, on the basis of counsel's and appellant's testimony, concluded that appellant understood the nature of his trial proceedings. See Commonwealth ex rel. Hilberry v. Maroney, 424 Pa. 493, 227 A.2d 159 (1967); Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 378, 86 S.Ct. 836, 838, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966). Because there is evidence in the record to support these findings of the PCHA court, we must deny appellant relief on this claim. See Commonwealth v. Minnick, 432 Pa. 462, 464, 247 A.2d 569, 571 (1968).

Appellant's first claim of ineffective assistance is that counsel failed to file a suppression motion for the three statements appellant gave to police. In the first statement, handwritten by appellant on December 6, 1974, appellant admitted stabbing and shooting Jeffers. In the second statement, a transcript of a tape recording of appellant's interrogation on December 6, 1974, appellant said that he stabbed and shot Jeffers. In the third statement, written by the police and signed by appellant on December 13, 1974, appellant identified the knife used to stab Jeffers.

It is well-settled that "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." ...


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