Com. v. Clark

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Citation279 A.2d 41,443 Pa. 318
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. Charles G. CLARK, Appellant.
Decision Date28 June 1971

Page 41

279 A.2d 41
443 Pa. 318
COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania
Charles G. CLARK, Appellant.
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
June 28, 1971.

[443 Pa. 319]

Page 43

Sanford Kahn, Philadelphia, for appellant.

[443 Pa. 320] Arlen Specter, Dist. Atty., James D. Crawford, Deputy Dist. Atty., Richard A. Sprague, First Asst. Dist. Atty., [443 Pa. 319] Milton M. Stein, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., David Richman, Asst. Dist. Atty., Philadelphia, for appellee.



ROBERTS, Justice.

Charles Clark here appeals from the denial of a motion for a discharge or new trial based upon the claim that a seven year delay between indictment and conviction deprived him of his right to a speedy trial as guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. For reasons appearing below, we conclude that the record must be remanded for further proceedings on this claim.

In 1951 appellant was incarcerated in the Indiana State Reformatory, Pendleton, Indiana, serving a 10 to 25 year term of imprisonment for robbery. On October 10th of that year he approached the warden of that institution and voluntarily confessed to the commission of various crimes, including murder, in the Philadelphia area in March of 1951. These admissions were promptly transmitted to the appropriate Philadelphia authorities, and two Philadelphia police detectives soon visited the prison. Although appellant in his original statement to the warden referred to a killing on the outskirts of Philadelphia, he admitted to the detectives that he had murdered one Harry Miller.

On February 4, 1952, appellant was brought to Philadelphia where he gave a signed confession, confirming his earlier admissions. An indictment was returned in due course but without notice to appellant who had by that time been returned to Indiana to serve the balance of his prison term for robbery without so much as a preliminary hearing on the Pennsylvania murder charge.

Appellant was not again released to the custody of Pennsylvania authorities until October 14, 1958, and not finally tried on the Pennsylvania murder charge [443 Pa. 321] until March 30, 1959. At trial he denied having killed Harry Miller and testified that his statements in 1951 and 1952 to the Indiana warden and to the Philadelphia detectives were with one exception all fabrications designed to secure his transfer away from a cellmate who had threatened to assault him sexually. 1 This explanation was apparently not believed by the jury, and appellant was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to life imprisonment.

No direct appeal was taken from this judgment of sentence, but in 1967 appellant filed a petition for relief pursuant to the Post Conviction Hearing Act 2 alleging among other things that he had been denied his right of appeal. This allegation was found to be meritorious, and appellant thereafter filed post trial motions contending that he had been denied his right to a speedy trial, that his confession had been erroneously admitted at trial, and that the trial court had improperly restricted the cross-examination of one of the Commonwealth's witnesses. The hearing court rejected the latter two contentions but held that an evidentiary hearing was necessary in order to resolve the speedy trial claim and ordered a new trial to enable appellant to raise that issue in a pretrial hearing.

Following the denial of its motion for reconsideration, the Commonwealth appealed the order granting a new trial to this Court

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on the theory that appellant had waived his right to assert his speedy trial claim by his failure to raise the issue either at trial or in his Post Conviction Hearing Act petition. We rejected this waiver argument but sustained the Commonwealth's[443 Pa. 322] position that it was inappropriate to order a new trial merely to provide a forum for an evidentiary hearing. Accordingly, the order granting a new trial was vacated and the record remanded for further proceedings on appellant's claim of denial of speedy trial. See Commonwealth v. Clark, 439 Pa. 192, 266 A.2d 741 (1970).

An evidentiary hearing was held on August 25, 1970. Based upon appellant's testimony at that hearing and upon the trial record, the hearing court concluded that the Commonwealth's delay in bringing appellant to trial was not unreasonable under all the circumstances and that the seven year delay between indictment and trial did not in any event prejudice appellant in defending against the charge. Reasoning from these conclusions, the court held that appellant had not been deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to speedy trial and denied his motion for a discharge or new trial. The instant appeal followed.

As the United States Supreme Court has only recently held the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial enforceable against the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, Klopfer v. North Carolina, 386 U.S. 213, 87 S.Ct. 988, 18 L.Ed.2d 1 (1967), many questions essential to the definition and implementation of the speedy trial guarantee are yet to be definitely resolved. 3 Because this is a currently emerging area of the law it is helpful to place the issues involved in this appeal in historical perspective.

Prior to Klopfer there existed a split of authority as to whether a state had an affirmative duty to seek [443 Pa. 323] to bring to trial an accused serving a prison term in another jurisdiction. The large majority of the decided cases held that there was no such duty, and the foremost rationale advanced in support of this traditional majority view rested upon a formalistic conception of sovereignty. In short, it was assumed that the prosecution of one incarcerated in another jurisdiction could be constitutionally deferred, 'since the sovereign seeking to try the prisoner did not have the power and authority over the prisoner to bring him to trial. This rule applied even if the custodial sovereign agreed to allow the other sovereign to try their prisoner.' Lawrence v. Blackwell, 298 F.Supp. 708, 712 (N.D.Ga.1969). A 'sovereign', it was argued, should not be compelled to request what need not be granted (temporary custody of the accused), thus exposing itself to the possible indignity of refusal. See, e.g., Cooper v. Texas, Tex., 400 S.E.2d 890, 892 (1966); Note, Effective Guaranty of a Speedy Trial for Convicts in Other Jurisdictions, 77 Yale L.J. 767, 771 (1968). Aside from such formal concepts of power and authority, the sovereignty theory was also buttressed to a certain extent by the pragmatic consideration of historically complicated and confusing extradition procedures.

The delayed prosecution of those confined in another jurisdiction has also been justified upon the theory that such persons have fled the accusing jurisdiction, thus waiving their right to speedy trial, and on the ground that the state would have to bear substantial expenses in securing the temporary custody of the accused and transporting him to and from trial. See, e.g., Dreadfulwater v. State, 415 P.2d 493 (Okl.Cr.App.1966). Finally, it has been suggested that one of the real reasons for delaying prosecution of this class of defendants is convenience to the state: many an overworked prosecutor might welcome the chance to [443 Pa. 324] postpone the trial of some

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cases. See Note, Detainers and the Correctional Process, 1966 Wash.U.L.Q. 417, 418--419.

These arguments in support of the majority rule were not persuasive when originally propounded and are even less persuasive today. As to the sovereignty theory it has been cogently observed that:

'* * * the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act, now in force in all but six states, today provides for a safe and simple extradition procedure between states. Statutory and case law has similarly simplified the process of granting temporary custody between state and federal jurisdictions. These procedural reforms leave little force in an argument which elevates the small danger of a rebuff of one sovereign by another above the concrete evils which can result from denial of a speedy trial.'

Note, Effective Guaranty of a Speedy Trial for Convicts in Other Jurisdictions, supra at 772 (footnotes omitted). And as to the notion that those incarcerated in other jurisdictions have somehow waived their right to a speedy trial by fleeing to avoid prosecution, it is sufficient to note that the argument rests in large measure upon a fiction. Furthermore, even in those cases where an accused has actually fled to another state to avoid prosecution, there is scant reason to view this as a permanent waiver even after he is in the custody of that other state and his whereabouts known to the accusing jurisdiction.

Finally, the arguments from prosecutorial convenience and state financial economy are devoid of merit. It might be equally or even more 'convenient' for a prosecutor to dispense with juries in criminal trials, but no one would seriously suggest that this would warrant the suspension of the constitutional right to trial by jury. In the same manner, little heed should be paid to any argument that would sacrifice the constitutional[443 Pa. 325] right to a speedy trial merely to alleviate a prosecutor's congested schedule. Nor is it to be expected that the cost of temporary extradition will be substantial, for '(i)f an accused * * * is ultimately to be tried, the only Extra cost to try him speedily is the cost of his return trip to the prison.' State ex rel. Fredenberg v. Byrne, 20 Wis.2d 504, 512, 123 N.W.2d 305, 309--310 (1963) (emphasis added). Moreover, it is abundantly clear that constitutional rights are not to be measured in dollars and cents. Consider, for example, the much more significant expenses incurred by the states in complying with the constitutional mandate of Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 83 S.Ct. 792, 9 L.Ed.2d 799 (1963), and...

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