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Commonwealth v. Alston

Pennsylvania Superior Court

May 26, 2020

The Allegheny County Public Defender’s Office, on behalf of the defendant, served a subpoena duces tecum on the Medical Examier’s Office seeking the autopsy report related to the defendant’s homicide case. The subpoena was issued prior to the defendant’s preliminary hearing. Without granting a hearing on the matter — and with no response from the Medical Examiner’s Office — the trial judge quashed the subpoena and issued a blanket prospective order requiring the Public Defender’s Office to show good cause for any future similar subpoenas. 

On appeal, the Superior Court found that the matter was property before the Court as a collateral order, and also held that the DA’s Office had standing to litigate the issue, though it was not truly the legal representative of the Medical Examiner’s Office. The Court then found the blanket prospectuve nature of the trial court’s order improper and also as applied to this defendant the quashal was an abuse of discretion, as the defendant has the right to show that the discoverable material is reasonable under the circumstances and the trial court did not provide an opportunity for that showing in the instant matter.

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