Com. v. Shannon

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Citation608 A.2d 1020,530 Pa. 279
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee, v. Henry A. SHANNON, Appellant.
Decision Date15 May 1992

Lester G. Nauhaus, Public Defender, Shelley Stark, Chief-Appellate Div., and Suzanne M. Swan, Asst. Public Defender, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Robert E. Colville, Dist. Atty., Claire C. Capristo, Deputy Dist. Atty., Kemal A. Mericli, and Edward Marcus Clark, Asst. Dist. Attys., Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Before NIX, C.J., and LARSEN, FLAHERTY, McDERMOTT, ZAPPALA, PAPADAKOS and CAPPY, JJ.

OPINION ANNOUNCING THE JUDGMENT OF THE COURT

ZAPPALA, Justice.

We granted Appellant Henry A. Shannon's Petition for Allowance of Appeal to address two issues. The first of these issues is whether trial counsel was ineffective for failing to subpoena known alibi witnesses or request a continuance when it became apparent that the alibi witnesses would not voluntarily appear for trial. We are also asked to determine whether the imposition of separate sentences for convictions on subsections (2) and (5) of 18 Pa.C.S. § 3123 arising from a single act constitutes an illegal sentence.

The relevant facts underlying the case sub judice are that Appellant was arrested on July 26, 1986 and charged with rape, 18 Pa.C.S. § 3121 and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, 18 Pa.C.S. § 3123(1), of his paramour's fifteen year old daughter on June 27, 1986. Following a preliminary hearing on August 26, 1986, Appellant was held for trial on both charges. On October 9, 1986, the Commonwealth lodged a criminal information against Appellant charging him with rape, 18 Pa.C.S. § 3121(1); involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, 18 Pa.C.S. § 3123(1) and (2); and a second count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, 18 Pa.C.S. § 3123(5).

At the January 13, 1987 non-jury trial, the prosecutrix testified that on June 27, 1986, at 12:00 A.M., while babysitting her younger brother and sister, she heard a knock at the front door. When she arrived downstairs, the prosecutrix testified that she saw Appellant, her mother's boyfriend, at the door and let him into the house. She told Appellant that her mother was not at home but was expected soon and he could wait for her mother in the living room. Instead, Appellant followed the prosecutrix to her bedroom where, according to the prosecutrix, he raped her and then performed oral intercourse on her. Appellant then admonished her not to tell or else. The prosecutrix's mother testified that she learned of the incident one month later when Appellant suggested that her daughter join them for group sex. It was the prosecutrix's mother's testimony that when she expressed surprise at the suggestion, Appellant related what had occurred a month earlier. She immediately confronted her daughter who for the first time admitted the incident had happened.

Appellant, then a regional vice president with Southern Equipment Company of Chattanooga, Tennessee, testified that during the period in question he had driven from his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to attend a week-long meeting at the Southern Equipment Company offices. While in Chattanooga, Appellant testified that he stayed at the home of Southern Equipment's President and Chief Executive Officer, Michael Atkinson. Appellant testified that he was asleep at the Atkinson house when the incident occurred. It was also Appellant's testimony that he called his wife, Leartta Knorr Shannon, who was in Pittsburgh from Michael Atkinson's home during the relevant time period. Appellant then testified that he drove from Chattanooga to Pittsburgh on the day after the incident. Appellant concluded his testimony by discussing his relationship with the prosecutrix's mother. The only other defense witness to testify was Leartta Shannon. Her testimony corroborated her husband's alibi defense.

Following trial, Appellant was found guilty of all the charges. Appellant's trial counsel subsequently filed a petition to withdraw as counsel which was granted. Newly appointed counsel then filed an amended motion for a new trial and/or in arrest of judgment, which inter alia alleged trial counsel's ineffectiveness in failing to subpoena alibi witnesses for trial or seek a continuance to ensure their appearance. An evidentiary hearing was held on the ineffectiveness claim. The alibi witnesses were not present for the hearing. Appellant was denied post trial relief. Thereafter, Appellant was sentenced to a term of ten to twenty years imprisonment on the rape count; a concurrent term of five to twenty years imprisonment on the first involuntary deviate sexual intercourse count; and to ten years probation on the second involuntary deviate sexual intercourse count which was to commence following the term of imprisonment. A motion to modify sentence was denied. On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed the judgment of sentence. Commonwealth v. Shannon, 393 Pa.Super. 640, 564 A.2d 1007 (1989).

Appellant contends that his trial counsel's testimony at the evidentiary hearing established that the missing witnesses would have provided Appellant with an alibi. For this reason, Appellant argues that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to subpoena those witnesses or request a continuance to ensure their appearance at trial.

In Commonwealth v. Hentosh, 520 Pa. 325, 554 A.2d 20 (1989), we addressed the Commonwealth's contention that Hentosh failed to prove at an evidentiary hearing that his trial counsel was ineffective by not subpoenaing two defense witnesses. Hentosh was convicted of burglary, receiving stolen property and criminal conspiracy in connection with a coin collection and other items that were stolen from a person who had discussed his coin collection with Hentosh. Hentosh was engaged in the business of buying and selling gold and silver. In a memorandum in support of Hentosh's request for a new trial submitted after the evidentiary hearing on remand, Hentosh specifically asserted that the testimony of one of his employees, Lori Morford, was critical to the defense in that her testimony would have impeached the testimony of the two admitted burglars. Additionally, Hentosh asserted that prior to trial he had requested his attorney to subpoena Officers Sherbondy and Pinkle whose testimony would have destroyed the credibility of a Commonwealth witness. Only Lori Morford testified at the evidentiary hearing.

Utilizing the ineffectiveness standard set forth in Commonwealth v. Pierce, 515 Pa. 153, 527 A.2d 973 (1987), we began to examine Hentosh's claim by stating:

In conducting this analysis it is important to bear in mind that allegations of the deprivation of the right to effective representation of counsel are not self sustaining. The burden of proof of the allegations remains with the claimant, their accuracy still to be established by his submission of relevant proofs. [Citations Omitted] ... Requisite to this examination is proof of the substance of that to which they would have testified had they been summoned to trial.

Commonwealth v. Hentosh, 520 Pa. at 334, 554 A.2d at 24-25 (emphasis added).

We then examined the Hentosh record and found that Officer Sherbondy did not appear at the evidentiary hearing. The record also revealed that although Lori Morford did appear at the hearing she was not asked any question relating to her knowledge of the events other than the day following the burglary. She could not have impeached the testimony of the two burglars. Without proof of what the evidence would have been we were unable to draw any conclusion as to whether it would have been helpful to Hentosh's defense or that the course of action not pursued by counsel offered a chance of success greater than that actually followed. We concluded that Hentosh failed to sustain his burden of demonstrating trial counsel's ineffectiveness.

A review of the record in the case sub judice reveals that none of the alleged alibi witnesses appeared at the evidentiary hearing and therefore the record is void of the proof of the substance of their evidence. The Superior Court therefore properly relied on Commonwealth v. Hentosh, supra, to conclude that Appellant failed to sustain his burden of demonstrating that trial counsel's failure to subpoena the witnesses or request a continuance constituted ineffectiveness.

Notwithstanding this analysis, Appellant now claims that post-trial counsel was ineffective for failing to procure the alleged alibi witnesses to establish that their testimony would have benefitted Appellant. The Commonwealth contends that Appellant waived this claim because he did not file a reply brief in Superior Court to address the Commonwealth's theory that Appellant had failed to sustain his evidentiary burden in rebutting trial counsel's presumed effectiveness.

It is well established that the ineffectiveness of prior counsel must be raised as an issue at the earliest stage in the proceedings at which the counsel whose effectiveness is being challenged no longer represents the defendant. Commonwealth v. Hubbard, 472 Pa. 259, 276-277 n. 6, 372 A.2d 687, 695 n. 6 (1977).

The record reflects that Appellant's post-trial counsel and appellate counsel are not the same person. Nevertheless, they are both members of the public defender's office. Appellant's claim cannot be deemed to have been waived because the public defender's office still represents Appellant. Consequently, by raising post-trial counsel's ineffectiveness, Appellant's appellate counsel has asserted in essence a claim of her own ineffectiveness because post-trial counsel and she are members of the public defender's office.

In Commonwealth v. McBee, 513 Pa. 255, 520 A.2d 10 (1986), we established that when appellate counsel asserts a claim of his or her own ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal, the case should be remanded for the appointment of new counsel except (1) where, it is...

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