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Commonwealth v. Lopez

Pennsylvania Supreme Court

April 29, 2021

Commonwealth v. Lopez involved a serial capital post-conviction appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In his PCRA petition, the defendant claimed that a cooperating witness — the defendant’s co-conspirator — was given a better deal than was disclosed to the defendant and the jury. At trial, the Commonwealth and the cooperating witness claimed that the only deal offered for the witness’s testimony was that the Commonwealth would not seek the death penalty against him. But after securing the death penalty against the defendant, the Commonwealth pled the witness out to third-degree murder for 20 to 40 years. The defendant raised that issue in a prior PCRA petition and was denied relief. Later, he discovered a habeas corpus petition from the cooperating witness wherein the witness claimed he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his lawyer informed him that he would receive only 8 1/2 to 15 years for his crimes. The Supreme Court held that this was not newly-discovered evidence but simply rehashing a prior argument. Thus, the petition was untimely.

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