Appeal from P.C.H.A. Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Armstrong County, Nos. 1981-0008, 0009, 0010, Crim.
Joseph E. Breman, Kittanning, for appellant.
George R. Kepple, District Attorney, Kittanning, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Spaeth, President Judge and, Rowley and Wieand, JJ.
[ 348 Pa. Super. Page 105]
David Paul Dosch was tried by jury and was found guilty of burglary and theft offenses. Although he filed post-trial motions, they were later withdrawn as part of a negotiated plea agreement. Pursuant to this agreement, Dosch entered pleas of guilty to numerous additional charges which related to an escape from the Armstrong County Prison. On November 24, 1981, Dosch was sentenced to prison for not less than five nor more than twenty years on the burglary conviction and to not less than two nor more than four years on the escape related offenses. The sentences were to run consecutively. No direct appeal was filed. On May 13, 1983, Dosch filed pro se a petition for relief under the Post Conviction Hearing Act. Counsel was appointed, and an evidentiary hearing was held. Thereafter, the court denied post conviction relief. On appeal therefrom, Dosch's primary argument is that his pleas of guilty to the escape related offenses were invalid (1) because they were part of an agreement requiring him to surrender his right to file post-trial motions in a separate proceeding and (2) because it was induced by the threat of a harsher penalty if he elected to go to trial. Dosch also argues that trial counsel was ineffective in the burglary case (1) because he failed to present a timely pre-trial motion to suppress appellant's
[ 348 Pa. Super. Page 106]
confession and (2) because he permitted appellant to waive an allegedly erroneous evidentiary ruling at his trial by withdrawing his post-trial motions. There is no merit in any of these contentions; and, therefore, we will affirm the order of the P.C.H.A. court.
The plea agreement required appellant to enter pleas of guilty to some of the escape related offenses -- the remainder were to be nol prossed -- and to withdraw the post-trial motions pending in the burglary and theft cases. In return, the Commonwealth agreed to recommend a five to twenty year sentence for burglary and theft and a consecutive sentence of two to four years for the escape related offenses.
Appellant's contention that the trial court should not have accepted his negotiated pleas is based upon language contained in the concurring opinion written in Commonwealth v. Marsh, 448 Pa. 292, 293 A.2d 57 (1972). In that case, the defendant had entered a plea of guilty to murder. Following a degree of guilt hearing he was adjudged guilty of murder of the first degree and sentenced to life imprisonment. He subsequently filed a P.C.H.A. petition and was able to obtain a new degree of guilt hearing. See: Commonwealth v. Marsh, 440 Pa. 590, 271 A.2d 481 (1970). The validity of his guilty plea, however, was upheld. Before the new degree of guilt hearing, Marsh entered a plea agreement wherein the Commonwealth was to stipulate that defendant's degree of guilt was no higher than murder of the second degree, and defendant was to agree not to pursue any further appeal challenging the validity of his guilty plea. The trial court refused to accept the plea agreement and, after a degree of guilt hearing, found the defendant guilty of first degree murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Marsh again appealed. A majority of the Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court was not required to accept the agreement. Commonwealth v. Marsh, supra 448 Pa. at 295, 293 A.2d at 60. In a concurring opinion, the suggestion was made that it would have been error to sanction a plea arrangement by which a
[ 348 Pa. Super. Page 107]
defendant bargained away his right to appellate review of the validity of his plea of guilty. Such an arrangement, the author of the opinion concluded, would invite attempts to insulate convictions unlawfully obtained from appellate review. Id., 448 Pa. at 299, 293 A.2d at 61-62 (Roberts, J., concurring).
Appellant urges us to adopt the rule advocated by the author of the Concurring Opinion. This we cannot do. A majority of the Supreme Court failed to join the concurring opinion; and, therefore, it did not precedentially alter the law of this Commonwealth. The existing state of the law was recited ...