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Commonwealth v. Tyler

Pennsylvania Superior Court

June 22, 2020

The defendant was convicted of first-degree murder in 1994. His most recent of many PCRA petitions was on appeal in the Superior Court when, under section 9543.1 of the Post Conviction Relief Act, he filed a petition seeking DNA testing of evidence. The lower court dismissed that petition for two reasons. First, it dismissed the claim because it lacked jurisdiction to hear it because the prior PCRA petition was still pending in the Superior Court. Second, the court dismissed the petition because it failed to articulate a sufficient basis to secure testing. The Superior Court disagreed with the trial court on the former point but affirmed on the latter point. The Superior Court noted that a motion for DNA testing under section 9543.1 is not a PCRA petition, but rather a motion seeking to gather information to be used in a subsequent PCRA petition. Thus, the lower court had jurisdiction to hear the motion. But given that the underlying conviction was based on accomplice liability, the defendant’s allegation that the DNA under the victim’s fingernails was likely not his was not likely to prove his innocence.

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