New PA Criminal Cases

Find the latest PA Criminal Cases

Listed below in reverse chronological order are summaries of recent Pennsylvania criminal cases.

The case summaries below are provided through the efforts of Spiros Angelos, Public Defender of Delaware County, Pennsylvania and Susan Magee, Assistant Public Defender, Appeals Unit.

Recent Case Summaries
June 2005 May 2005 April 2005

June, 2005 TOP

COMMONWEALTH v THADDEUS DAVID WILIIAMS (J.A39026/04 2005 PA SUPER 203)
Superior Court 771 MDA 2004 decided June 1, 2005
"Rule 600"


ááááááááááááááááá The defendant was arrested and charged with various offenses.á Prior to trial the defendant was released on bail, during this time he was involuntary committed for psychiatric treatment.á Before his case went to trial defense counsel filed a Motion to Dismiss the charges pursuant to Rule 600.á The Superior Court held when a defendant is free on bail although confined to a psychiatric hospital due diligence on the Commonwealth's part is not implicated for Rule 600.

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IN THE INTEREST OF R.D.R., (J.S66028/04 2005 PA SUPER 204)
Superior Court 733 MDA 2004 decided June 1, 2005
"Fines/Juvenile"


ááááááááá The defendant wrote a check for 800 to purchase a car.á When the victim attempted to collect the money the check bounced.á After numerous attempts to rectify the situation the defendant was convicted of writing a bad check and was ordered to pay 800 in restitution and two years probation.á During the sentencing hearing the Commonwealth failed to request any restitution.á On appeal the defendant claims the restitution order is illegal.á The Superior Court held under subsection (e) of the bad check statute the Commonwealth was not required to ask for restitution in this matter.

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IN RE: PRIVATE CRIMINAL COMPLAINT OF JOHN D. WILSON III (J.E03002/04 2005 PA SUPER 211)
Superior Court 211 WDA 2003 decided June 7, 2005
"Private Criminal Complaint"


ááááááááá áá The defendant was involved in an altercation with the police chief who was off duty at the time.á As a result of this altercation the defendant filed a private criminal complaint against the police chief, after review by the District Attorney's office the complaint was denied.á The defendant appealed this denial to the Court of Common Pleas this court upheld the denial and this appeal followed.á On appeal the defendant raised two issues (1) was it err for the court to deny the complaint when there was evidence sufficient to establish a prima facie case and (2) Whether the court erred in refusing to approve the complaint when the district attorney's office abuse its discretion.á The Superior Court held (this case was heard by nine judges the decision was 6 to 3)á when the district attorney disapproves a private criminal complaint solely on the basis of legal conclusions, the trial court undertakes a de novo review of the matter.á The appellate court will then review the trial courts decision for an error of law.á If the district attorney disapproves a private criminal complaint on wholly policy considerations, or on a hybrid of legal and policy considerations, the trial court's standard of review of the district attorney's decision is abuse of discretion.á To prove this abuse the complainant has to prove the district attorney decision amounted to bad faith, fraud or unconstitutionality and to prove these factors the complainant must show specific factors to support this fact.á The appellate court will then review the trial courts decision whether the trial court misapprehended or misinterpreted the district attorney's decision and without legitimate basis on the record, substituted its own judgment for that of the district attorney.

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COMMONWEALTH v THOMAS W. HYLAND (J.A02017/05 2005 PA SUPER 199)
Superior Court 912 MDA 2004 decided May 27, 2005
"Sentencing"


ááááááááá This case gives a good review of when a court abuses its discretion in sentencing.

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ROMPILLA V BEARD SECRETARY PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
No. 04-5462
United States Supreme Court decided June 20, 2005
á"Death Penalty/Reasonable efforts on the part of the attorney"


This case is a must read to determine the level and extent defense counsel must go in investigating mitigating evidence for the death penalty phase.

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JOHNSON V CALIFORNIA, No. 04-6964
United States Supreme Court decided June 13, 2005
MILLER-EL DRETKE, DEPARTMENT OF TEXAS CORRECTIONS
United States Supreme Court decided June 13, 2005
"Batson"


ááááááááá Both of these cases deal with Batson Challenges-these are a must read to determine what factors the court needs to review to determine if a Batson violation has occurred.

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COMMONWEALTH v JEREMY MATTHEW MORRISON
Superior Court No. 1615 MDA 2003 decided June 17, 2005
"Guilty Plea"


ááááááááá This case gives a good review of what makes up a valid plea colloquy.

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May, 2005 TOP

DECK v MISSOURI
No. 04-5293 United State Supreme Court
Decided May 23, 2005


ááááááááá The defendant was convicted of two counts of first degree murder.á During the penalty phase of his trial he was shackled with leg irons and a belly chain.á At the conclusion of the penalty phase he was sentenced to death.á On appeal the Missouri Supreme Court upheld his conviction.á The United States Supreme Court reversed his sentence and held the constitution forbids the use of visible shackles during a capital trial's guilt phase, unless that use is "justified by an essential state interest" such as courtroom security-specific to the defendant on trial.


COMMONWEALTH v EDIL G. ROSAS (JA46010/04 2005 PA SUPER 183)
LUIS S. BRITO (J.A46011/04 2005 PA SUPER 183)
Superior Court 1162 MDA 2004, 1163 MDA 2004 decided May 19, 2005
"Suppression"


áááááááááDefendant Rosas was the driver and defendant Brito was the passenger in a car that was stopped for speeding.á The police officer approached the vehicle and asked the driver for his license, proof of insurance and registration.á He was unable to produce any of this information but gave the officer his birth date and social security card.á When the officer ran this information through N.C.I.C it cam back with an individual who with a different name but the same birth date.á Armed with this information the officer handcuffed Mr. Rosas and informed him he was being detained because he was coming up as a deported felon from the N.C.I.C. report.á While things were being sorted out another officer who had arrived on the scene noticed an upside down license plate in the car, (by this time Mr. Brito was outside of the car) he asked permission to get this plate.á After he received permission and in attempting to retrieve this plate he found cocaine in the car.á Both men were arrested and charged with attempt to deliver a controlled substance.á Prior to trial a suppression motion was filed and the trial court granted this motion based on the fact that when Mr. Rosas was handcuffed he was placed under arrest and the information from the N.C.I.C. report did not give the officers probable cause to arrest.á This appeal followed.á The Superior Court reversed the trial court based on the fact that when Mr. Rosas was handcuffed he was not under arrest but was being detained for further investigation and as a result the level of suspicion needed was not probable cause but rather reasonable suspicion and the information from the N.C.I.C. gave the officer the reasonable suspicion to detain him for further inquiry.

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COMMONWEALTH v MALIK BROWN (J.A35028/04 2005 PA SUPER 180)
Superior Court 3243 EDA 2003 decided May 19, 2005
"Rule 600"


This case gives a good review of Rule 600 and the meaning of due diligence on the part of the Commonwealth..

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COMMONWEALTH v GREGORY DAVID LIDWIG (J-205-2004)
Supreme Court No. WAP 2002 decided May 19, 2005
"Constitutional challenge to statute 18 Pa.C.S. section 2506"


ááááááááá The defendant was arrested and charged with Drug Delivery resulting in death 18 Pa.C.S. section 2506 for his involvement with the death of a customer of his.á The defendant was a teenager who sold ecstasy pills to one girl for herself and her two friends.á When she purchased these pills he told her they were a double dose and to only take half at a time.á At the event all of the girls split the pills and took them.á Later on that evening one of the girls took the other half as a result of this she developed complications and subsequently died as a result of the overdose.á Prior to trial the trial court found this statute to be unconstitutional because it failed to specifically state a mens rea necessary for conviction.á The Supreme Court found the statute to be constitutional because the legislature specifically designated this crime as murder in the third degree and the mens rea for this crime is malice.áá However, the court went on to conclude the Commonwealth failed to establish a prima facia case.á The Court found the fact of supplying an illegal and potentially dangerous substance of unknown quality does not if and of itself supports a finding of malice.

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COMMONWEALTH v WILLIAM BASMORE (J-S67005-04 2005 PA SUPER 184)
Superior Court 2722 EDA 2003 decided May 20, 2005
"Batson/Double Jeopardy"


ááááááááIf a Batson challenge is sustained on appeal double jeopardy is not implicated.

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COMMONWEALTH v LYNN E. KYLE (J-98-2004)
Supreme Court 255 MAP 2003 decided May 16, 2005
"Credit for time on electronic home monitoring"


ááááááááThe defendant was arrested and charged with various offenses during this time he was out on bail, after his case was concluded he was allowed to remain on bail with electronic monitoring for the duration of his appeal.á In total he had spent 268 days on electronic home monitoring.á The Supreme Court found that the defendant is not entitled to credit.á In reaching this decision they examine the Chiappini case and concluded on this issue a fractured court decided the case and the case by case test proposed by Chiappini is specifically disapproved.á Credit could be given on equitable factors.á Such as the ones found in Chiappini and Kriston.

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COMMONWEALTH v RAZZAAQ MILLER (J.S21031/05 2005 PA SUPER 177)
Superior Court 2403 EDA 2004 decided May 16, 2005
"Suppression/ Reasonable Suspicion"


áááááááááReasonable suspicion exists if a police officer observes an individual in a high crime area in conjunction with unprovoked flight upon seeing the officer.

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COMMONWEALTH v ANTHONY S. TWITTY (J.A13008-05 2005 PA SUPER 193)
Superior Court 3301 EDA 2003 decided May 25, 2005
"Evidence"


áááááááááThe defendant was arrested and charged with various sexual offenses concerning his daughter.á As part of their case in chief the Commonwealth presented testimony from the forensic laboratory manager to testify to the contents of two laboratory reports concerning the results of the DNA test.ááá On appeal the defendant raised the issue that this evidence should not have been admitted because it was hearsay.á The Superior Court concluded that the report was hearsay and should not have been admitted with out the technician who prepared the report testifying at trial, however they then went to determine it was harmless error and affirmed the conviction.
href="http://www.courts.state.pa.us/OpPosting/Superior/out/a13008_05.pdf"

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April, 2005 TOP

COMMONWELATH v THOMAS D. LEE (J.A40029/04 2005 PA SUPER 160)
Superior Court No. 681 WDA 2004 decided April, 27, 2005
"Sentencing"
ááááááááá The defendant pled guilty to various sexual offenses.á He was sentenced to a term of 15 months to 96 months incarceration.á At the sentencing hearing the defendant wanted to introduce evidence regarding parole policies implemented by the Pennsylvania State Board of Probation and Parole, the trial court found this evidence to be irrelevant to the proceedings and denied this request.á On appeal the defendant complains the sentence was excessively harsh and the evidence concerning the parole board procedures should have been allowed into evidence.

ááááááááá On appeal the court found because the minimum sentence was within the statutory guidelines the court was not excessive in its decision and because the court does not know what the parole board will do in this case the information about the policy and procedures are irrelevant at a sentencing hearing. The important part of this case is the dissent.á This should be read.

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COMMONWELATH v MARCUS JOHNSON (J.S14001-05 2005 PA SUPER 159)
Superior Court No. 2282 EDA 2002 decided April 27, 2005

"Sentencing"


ááááááááá The defendant was charged with numerous counts of robbery and criminal conspiracy.á The defendant was scheduled to plead guilty, but when he went to the hearing he informed the court he had no intention of pleading guilty and wanted a trial.á At the sentencing judge told him this was the best deal he ever saw for these charges and he really should take the deal.á He also told him he was lucky to have such a good D.A. and he did not understand why he was quibbling over two years.á Throughout the hearing the judge took an active part in the negotiations and finally persuaded the defendant to take the deal.á On appeal the Superior Court vacated the sentenced and allowed the defendant to withdraw his guilty plea because the judge crossed the line by being actively involved in the plea.

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COMMONWEALTH v KENNETH JAMES HILL (A31025/04 2005 PA SUPER 156)
Superior Court 525 WDA 2004 decided April 26, 2005
"Suppression/Car Stop"


ááááááááá At approximately 1:00 a.m. the officers were on routine patrol when they noticed the defendant at this time he was not observed committing any traffic violations.á They were following his car closely, when the defendant saw this he pulled over the side of the road to let them pass (he was not aware they were police officers) at this time the officers pulled him behind him and activated their lights.á The defendant was subsequently arrested for DUI.á Prior to the case the defense filed a Motion to Suppress the evidence, the trial court granted this motion and the Commonwealth appealed.á On Appeal the Commonwealth claimed (1) the initial encounter with the defendant was not a seizure (2) the police were just trying to see if he needed assistance.á The Superior Court found the initial encounter was a seizure because once the officer activated his lights the defendant was not free to leave.á At no time was there an indication the defendant needed any type of assistance all he did was pull over to allow the car behind him to pass.á The police lacked reasonable suspicion to stop and question the defendant and the suppression was affirmed.

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COMMONWEALTH v WAYNE EDWARDS (J.A02012/05 2005 PA SUPER 153)
Superior Court 773 MDA 2004 decided April 26, 2005
"Search/Probationer"


ááááááááá While the defendant was on parole his probation officer received two reports from an confidential informant which reliability was never confirmed that the defendant was not residing at his approved address and was selling drugs.á Based on this information the probation officer went to the new address and found the appellant outside.á He questioned him and was told by the defendant that he was just letting the contractor into the home to do some work.á This explanation did not satisfy the probation officer, while he was talking to the defendant he saw a pager in the door way.á After seeing this he entered the home and did a search, the defendant was arrested for various drug offenses.á Prior to trial the defendant filed a Motion to Suppress, which the trial court granted.á The Commonwealth appealed to the Superior Court.á On appeal the Superior Court affirmed the suppression of evidence based on the following reasons. (it should be noted the court did not address the issue of the defendant's reasonable expectation of privacy in the residence because the Commonwealth waived this issue on appeal)á The Commonwealth never proved the informant was reliable because of this the probation officer did not posses reasonable suspicion but merely suspicion.á The ownership of the pager was never established and could not be attributed to the defendant.á While a parolee gives up certain rights he does not give up the rights of others.á The Commonwealth never proved he was living at the address and the parole officer lacked probable cause to search this house.

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COMMONWEALTH v MICHAEL HENRY (J.S62017-04 2005 PA SUPER 149)
Superior Court EDA 2003 decided April 25, 2005
"Sufficiency of the evidence"


ááááááááá The defendant was arrested for theft and various charges related to a stolen automobile.á The only evidence presented at trial was his fingerprint was found on the inside of the car. He was found guilty of unauthorized use of an automobile The Superior Court reversed his conviction because they found the Commonwealth failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant operated the vehicle. The fingerprint evidence only proved the defendant was in the car at some point but not that he operated the vehicle as an element under the authorized use statute.

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COMMONWEALTH v BARNSWELL JONES (S66025/04 2005 PA SUPER 150
Superior Court MDA 2004 decided April 25, 2005
"Expectation of Privacy"


ááááááááá The police stopped the defendant while he was driving a rented automobile where he was not on the lease for the car.á While they were stopped the defendant and the passenger all gave inconsistent statements about where they were going and where they had been.á After the initial detention was over the police told the defendant he was free to leave.á Before they left he asked if he could search the car, the defendant said no but would consent to a dog sniff. During this encounter the defendant was acting nervously and seemed to be stalling the police. The police brought the dog to the scene and was alerted to the possibility of drugs in the car.á The defendant was arrested for various drug offenses.á Prior to trial he filed a Motion to Suppress.á The trial court denied the motion and the defendant was convicted.á The Superior Court affirmed the judgment of sentence because (1) the defendant did not have an expectation of privacy in a rented car where he was not on the lease.á (2) the encounter after he was told he was free to leave was a mere encounter (3) the inconsistent statements coupled with the nervous behavior on the part of the defendant gave the officer reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot.

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