Com. v. Grazier

Citation713 A.2d 81,552 Pa. 9
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee, v. Guy Thomas GRAZIER, Appellant.
Decision Date15 June 1998
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania



FLAHERTY, Chief Justice.

This is an appeal from a memorandum decision of Superior Court which affirmed an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County denying a petition under the Post Conviction Hearing Act (PCHA), 42 Pa.C.S. § 9541 et seq. 1

In 1983, the appellant, Guy Thomas Grazier, was convicted of kidnapping. The conviction arose from an incident in which eyewitnesses saw appellant and his co-defendant, Bruce Thomas, carry a body out of Thomas' apartment, place it in the trunk of Thomas' car, and drive away. Several hours later the body of Thomas' girlfriend, Teresa Forlastro, was found in a lake. She had been shot through the head. Appellant was convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to ten to twenty years imprisonment for his participation in this crime.

In 1986, Superior Court affirmed the judgment of sentence. Appellant subsequently filed a pro se petition for relief pursuant to the PCHA. Counsel was appointed and an amended petition was filed. Counsel was then granted leave to withdraw and another counsel was appointed. Ultimately, in 1995, the PCHA court dismissed the petition.

Appellant filed a timely pro se notice of appeal to Superior Court. Soon thereafter he filed a pro se brief, but the brief was returned to him with a notice that the date for filing briefs had not yet been scheduled by the court. Appellant filed several petitions to remove counsel and proceed pro se. The court denied the first of these and referred it to counsel. A second petition to remove counsel and proceed pro se was filed. Counsel then filed a brief on appellant's behalf. The latter petition was referred to counsel. A third petition, seeking to file a pro se brief and proceed without counsel, was subsequently filed. It, too, was referred to counsel. On January 10, 1997, the order of the PCHA court was affirmed.

The present appeal commenced when appellant filed a timely pro se petition for allowance of appeal and a petition to proceed pro se. Counsel filed a petition for leave to withdraw. We granted all of these petitions.

At issue is whether Superior Court erred in its disposition of appellant's petitions to remove counsel and proceed pro se. When the court denied the first such petition and referred it and the subsequent petitions to counsel, the stated basis for its action was Commonwealth v. Ellis, 534 Pa. 176, 626 A.2d 1137 (1993). The court's reliance on Ellis was, however, misplaced. In Ellis, we held that an appellate court is not required to review pro se briefs filed by represented appellants. Id. at 183-84, 626 A.2d at 1141. Ellis does not stand for the proposition that a court is free to ignore an appellant's request to remove counsel and proceed pro se. To the contrary, Ellis expressly recognized the right to proceed without the assistance of counsel: "[a] represented appellant may petition to terminate his representation; he may, acting pursuant to the rules of criminal procedure, proceed on his own behalf." Id. Accord Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 95 S.Ct. 2525, 45 L.Ed.2d 562 (1975) (constitutional right to proceed without counsel).

In Commonwealth v. Rogers, 537 Pa. 581, 583, 645 A.2d 223, 224 (1994), the right to proceed pro se at the appellate stage was again recognized: "[i]t is well settled that a criminal defendant or appellant has the right to proceed pro se at trial and through appellate proceedings." This court held, however, that when an appellant requests pro se status after his counsel has filed an appellate brief, the request is untimely. Id. at 583-84, 645 A.2d at 224. In the present case, however, appellant filed petitions to dismiss counsel and proceed pro se before an appellate brief was filed by counsel.

Given appellant's timely...

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  • Commonwealth of Pa. v. Jette
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • June 22, 2011
    ...a counseled appeal and self-representation. If self-representation was the choice, then our subsequent decision in Commonwealth v. Grazier, 552 Pa. 9, 713 A.2d 81 (1998), made clear that the Superior Court was to remand the matter to the trial court for the necessary determination of whethe......
  • Com. v. Davido
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • February 25, 2005
    ...request was made "clearly and unequivocally." Faretta, 422 U.S. at 836, 95 S.Ct. 2525. Similarly, as we stated in Commonwealth v. Grazier, 552 Pa. 9, 713 A.2d 81, 82 (1998), for purposes of appellate proceedings, a court only needs to conduct an on the record colloquy when there has been a ......
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    • December 29, 2015
    ...Appellant continues to express disagreement with counsels' strategic choice, he may seek a hearing pursuant to Commonwealth v. Grazier, 552 Pa. 9, 713 A.2d 81 (1998) as to his competency to self-represent.80 130 A.3d 672Claim 8. Whether Appellant is Entitled to a New Sentencing Hearing Beca......
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    • April 29, 2020 counsel in a first PCRA proceeding and, relatedly, the failure of the trial court to conduct a hearing, per Commonwealth v. Guy Thomas Grazier , 552 Pa. 9, 713 A.2d 81 (1998), to ensure a defendant has knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to counsel for his first PCRA petition; cou......
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