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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JAMES HARRIS (05/27/83)

decided: May 27, 1983.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
JAMES HARRIS, APPELLANT



No. 81-3-351, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, Criminal Division at Docket No. 581 of 1973, dated October 20, 1980.

COUNSEL

Paul A. McGinley, Allentown (Court-appointed), for appellant.

Edward J. Zamborsky, Asst. District Atty., for appellee.

Roberts, C.j., and Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson and Zappala, JJ. Roberts, C.j., filed a concurring opinion. Hutchinson, J., filed a concurring opinion in which Flaherty, J., joined. Nix and McDermott, JJ., concurred in the result.

Author: Zappala

[ 501 Pa. Page 180]

OPINION

Appellant, James Harris, is appealing an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County denying his supplemental PCHA petition to withdraw his guilty plea and for appointment of a special prosecutor.

In his petition, Mr. Harris alleges that a conflict of interest existed when his public defender, William Platt was appointed to the position of District Attorney of Lehigh County during the pendency of Harris' first PCHA appeal.

The facts surrounding Mr. Harris' appeal may be summarized as follows:

On February 21, 1973, James Harris was arrested for murder. He was represented by Chief Public Defender Frederick Lanshe, Esq. and by Robert W. Brown, Esq. of the Public Defender's office. In June of 1973 the petitioner entered a negotiated plea of guilty to second degree murder.

Following a hearing before the Honorable Donald E. Wieand, of the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas, petitioner was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison. No appeal was taken from the judgment of sentence. It is important to note that at this stage, William Platt in no way participated in the defense of Appellant Harris.

In December, 1974, Mr. Harris filed a petition under the Post Conviction Hearing Act to withdraw his guilty plea. It was at this time that William Platt, then Chief Public Defender, was assigned by an Order dated December 20, 1974 to represent appellant on his PCHA appeal. Platt argued the petition on behalf of Mr. Harris in November of 1976 and was then appointed District Attorney in ...


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