Appeal from Order Entered November 20, 1986, Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Div., Philadelphia County No. 8502 - 1681/83
George S. Leone, Philadelphia, for Com., appellee.
Thomas L. McGill, Jr., Philadelphia, for appellant.
Cavanaugh, Wieand and Del Sole, JJ.
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The primary issue in this appeal is whether the revocation by the Supreme Court of defense counsel's admission to the bar of Pennsylvania, after the defendant's criminal trial had been completed, renders counsel ineffective.
The background of this case is most important. The defendant, Russell L. Vance, was arrested on February 4, 1985 and charged with murder and possession of an instrument of crime. He confessed to the crime and his statement established that he had shot Isaiah Anderson nine times with three different weapons, apparently in a dispute over rent payments. The shooting occurred in the basement of the house which defendant rented from Mr. Anderson at 2938 W. Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After shooting the victim, the defendant wrapped his body in trash bags, having bound his arms and legs with
[ 376 Pa. Super. Page 497]
wire. The defendant then drove the body to an isolated spot in South Philadelphia and disposed of it.
Mr. Vance was represented by Richard Potack from about April, 1985 until he was sentenced on February 5, 1986. During this time counsel actively sought to protect his client's interests, including the filing of a motion to suppress evidence on which two days of hearings were held. Defense counsel unsuccessfully sought to have bail reinstated for his client and sought psychiatric evaluations to establish that the defendant was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from his activities in Viet Nam. The defendant was a Viet Nam veteran and claimed that he had shot and killed civilians who were trying to steal garbage.
The defendant's mental condition at the time of the offense was an essential part of the case. The court directed that the defendant be examined at the Veteran's Hospital at Coatesville by Dr. William Racek. The case was then listed for a status hearing on October 28, 1985, and on that date defense counsel informed the court that he had not yet received the report of Dr. Racek's examination of the defendant. Rule 1100 was waived until January 31, 1986, and the matter was continued for trial to the earliest date possible consistent with the court's calendar and the defense counsel's schedule.
On December 17, 1985, defense counsel filed another petition for bail. The court scheduled a hearing and bail was denied. The court then directed a psychiatric examination of the defendant by the Psychiatric Unit of the Probation Department and the case was continued to January 21, 1986. The court also ordered defense counsel to provide the Commonwealth with defendant's medical and psychiatric records. The case was then listed for jury trial on January 27, 1986.
On the date set for jury trial, defense counsel moved to re-open the suppression hearing for the limited purpose of additional testimony regarding physical evidence. The court permitted the introduction of this testimony, but
[ 376 Pa. Super. Page 498]
denied defense counsel's motion to suppress the evidence. A Motion for Redaction of Defense Psychiatric Report was granted. The court denied a defense motion for the jury not to be death qualified. Jury selection began that day and was completed on January 31, 1986 and court was recessed until February 3, 1986.
Prior to the defendant's appearance in court on February 3, 1986, defense counsel made two motions which the court denied. He then indicated that the defendant wished to examine the physical evidence. When the defendant arrived at the courtroom, he was permitted to do so and the court then took a brief recess. When all parties returned to the courtroom, defense counsel requested another recess because the defendant had indicated that he was considering the entry of a guilty plea. When the court reconvened, defense counsel informed it that the defendant would plead guilty to murder generally and possessing an instrument of crime generally. After an extensive colloquy, the court accepted the defendant's guilty plea. The degree of guilt hearing began immediately thereafter and testimony as to the degree of guilt concluded on February 5, 1986. The defendant was adjudicated guilty of murder in the first degree and guilty of possessing an instrument of crime generally. He was immediately sentenced to a term of life imprisonment on the murder charge and a concurrent term of two and one-half to five years for possessing an instrument of crime.
On February 10, 1986, the defendant filed pro se motions to withdraw his guilty plea and for modification and reconsideration of sentence. On March 11, 1986, the court ordered the appointment of new counsel for the defendant and Thomas L. ...