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Weekly Caselaw Updates

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Commonwealth v. Burke

The proper remedy for a violation of Commonwealth v. McClelland is a discharge, not remand. The defendant, the Commonwealth, and the trial court agreed the magisterial district court and trial court violated McClelland when those courts relied exclusively on hearsay evidence at the preliminary hearing and habeas corpus hearing. In…

Commonwealth v. Burke
Pennsylvania Superior Court

The proper remedy for a violation of Commonwealth v. McClelland is a discharge, not remand. The defendant, the Commonwealth, and the trial court agreed the magisterial district court and trial court violated McClelland when those courts relied exclusively on hearsay evidence at the preliminary hearing and habeas corpus hearing. In this interlocutory appeal, the Pennsylvania… Continue reading Commonwealth v. Burke

In re Rosado
3rd Circuit

AEDPA slays another habeas petition. In 1995, Rosado was almost eighteen and a half years old when he shot and killed someone. Seven months later, he pleaded guilty in Pennsylvania state court to first-degree murder and was sentenced to mandatory life without parole. After Rosado filed his first round of habeas petitions, the United States… Continue reading In re Rosado

Randolph v. Sec’y Pa. Dept. of Corr.
3rd Circuit

The week before his capital trial, Randolph hired Sam Stretton to replace his court-appointed counsel. On the Thursday before Monday’s jury selection, Stretton entered his appearance and asked the trial court if it could delay the start of the trial until the following month. Citing previous delays and the proximity to trial, the trial court… Continue reading Randolph v. Sec’y Pa. Dept. of Corr.

Wallace v. Superintendent Mahanoy SCI
3rd Circuit

The petitioner pleaded guilty but mentally ill to third-degree murder in a Pennsylvania common pleas court. After his plea and sentence, he took no action on the case for more than a decade but sought to excuse his delay when he filed a habeas corpus petition. The petitioner claimed that his mental illness prohibited him… Continue reading Wallace v. Superintendent Mahanoy SCI

Baxter v. Superintendent Coal Twp. SCI
3rd Circuit

The Third Circuit granted the appellee’s motion to publish its opinion in Baxter v. Superintendent Coal Twp. SCI. The case arose in the context of a habeas corpus petition wherein the petitioner claimed that the trial court’s reasonable doubt instruction to the jury was inaccurate and caused prejudice. The instruction provided the example that if… Continue reading Baxter v. Superintendent Coal Twp. SCI

Holland v. Warden Canaan USP
3rd Circuit

In Holland v. Warden Canaan USP, the Third Circuit heard a rare appeal from the denial of post-conviction relief based on a petition filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 instead of § 2255. Here, the petitioner was convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) when he traded drugs for a gun. After the date of the conviction,… Continue reading Holland v. Warden Canaan USP

Commonwealth v. Speight
Pennsylvania Supreme Court

In 2017, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied the defendant’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus as to the guilt phase of his state criminal trial but granted relief with respect to his death sentence and remanded the case for resentencing. The District Court granted this relief only… Continue reading Commonwealth v. Speight

Commonwealth v. Moore
Pennsylvania Supreme Court

In Commonwealth v. Moore, a criminal defendant filed a petition decades after his conviction. He claimed that the life-without-parole sentence he is serving violates his due process rights because the sentencing statute is vague. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered whether that claim is a challenge to the legality of a sentence. If it is, it… Continue reading Commonwealth v. Moore

Bracey v. Superintendent Rockview SCI
3rd Circuit

In 1995, Bracey was convicted of murder in Pennsylvania state court. In 2010, he learned the Commonwealth had disclosed only some of the cases that were pending against the primary two cooperating witnesses, who testified for the Commonwealth. Based on this newly-discovered information, Bracey filed a PCRA petition, which the Court of Common Pleas dismissed… Continue reading Bracey v. Superintendent Rockview SCI

Commonwealth v. Lambert
Pennsylvania Superior Court

In Commonwealth v. Lambert, defense counsel filed a motion for a writ of habeas corpus after the defendant’s preliminary hearing. At the motion’s hearing, the Commonwealth did not present any evidence and asserted that the Commonwealth was entitled to rely on “what happened at the preliminary hearing.” The trial court granted the writ and dismissed… Continue reading Commonwealth v. Lambert