No. 326 Pittsburgh, 1982, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, Criminal Division at No. 2562 of 1976.
Elliot Jay Segel, Assistant Public Defender, Erie, for appellant.
Shad Connelly, Assistant District Attorney, Erie, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Rowley, Popovich and Hoffman, JJ. Hoffman, J., concurs in the result.
[ 327 Pa. Super. Page 140]
This is an appeal from January 5, 1982 Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County denying appellant's, Raymond D. Payne's, Post-Conviction Hearing Act (PCHA) petition. 19 P.S. § 1180-1 et seq., as amended; reenacted as 42 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 9541-9551. We affirm.
On April 11, 1977, appellant pleaded guilty to a general charge of murder regarding the strangulation death of a 16-year-old student of his in Erie, Pennsylvania. At the
[ 327 Pa. Super. Page 141]
guilty plea hearing, the court advised the appellant that he was being charged with the murder of "Debra Lynn Gama by means of ligature strangulation." Further, he was informed of his rights attendant to a trial by jury, except for the unanimity requirement of a guilty verdict. Also, the court defined the different classifications that make up the offense of murder in Pennsylvania's statutory scheme and the possible penalties that accompany their violation. Finally, the court posed the question to Mr. Payne, ". . . knowing all of this and having conferred with counsel over a period of six or seven months, is it your desire here this morning to enter a plea generally to the charge of murder?" To which Mr. Payne responded, "Yes, Sir." (N.T. 4/11/77 at 27)
Immediately after the rendition of the guilty plea colloquy and the court's acceptance of appellant's plea, a degree-of-guilt hearing was commenced with the testimony of a Pennsylvania State Trooper assigned to investigate the case. However, when the presiding judge heard a factual accounting from this witness, as to the manner in which the body was found (wire located around the neck, ankles and wrists of the victim as she floated in the Cussewago Creek, Crawford County),*fn1 he discontinued the proceedings and directed that they begin anew before a three-judge panel because, "based upon these matters[,] . . . the crime charged m[ight] rise to murder in the first degree." Id. at 39.
Following the continuation of the degree-of-guilt hearing before the en banc court, the appellant was found guilty of first degree murder and, thereafter, was sentenced to a state institution "for the rest and remainder of [his] natural life." (N.T. 8/5/77 at 3) An appeal was perfected to the
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Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which resulted in an affirmance of the judgment of sentence on the ground that the conviction was amply supported by the evidence. Commonwealth v. Payne, 483 Pa. 256, 396 A.2d 630 (1979). No other issue, aside from the sufficiency of the evidence, was raised. Also, it is to be noted that throughout the adjudicatory process ...