Police want to search your phone? Get a warrant!

This was a discretionary appeal to the Pa. Supreme Court.  The issue before the Court concerned the warrantless search of a cellphone and whether such a search was harmless in this case.  The resolution of the case relied heavily upon two cases out of the U.S. Supreme Court, Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie, ___ U.S. ___, 134 … Read More

The Power of a Single Witness

This was an appeal out of York County.  Johnson proceeded to a bench trial on robbery and conspiracy charges, and the judge convicted him of these crimes based on the uncorroborated account of the robbery victim alone. If it wasn’t clear before, it is clear now, according to the Superior Court, that “a solitary witness’s testimony may establish every element … Read More

Guilty Pleas and Appeals

This was a 6-3 decision out of the United States Supreme Court.  The issue, at first glance, is seemingly straightforward, but upon reading the dissent, it is clear that the issue is a lot more complicated.  Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Gorsuch joined.  Justice Alito filed … Read More

Juveniles and De Facto Life Sentences

This was an appeal out of Venango County. This appeal is one of many in a line of cases—both in federal and state courts—that have addressed sentencing of juveniles. The holding of this case was particularly significant, and the reason why is because the Superior Court took the unusual step to go further than the federal and state supreme courts … Read More

Comm. v. Murphy, 2018 PA Super 35 (Feb. 20, 2018)

This was an appeal out of Dauphin County. The appellant, Edgar Murphy, Jr., had filed several post-conviction-relief appeals (PCRAs), and the instant one was blatantly untimely.  Murphy had also filed numerous, incoherent, applications for relief with the Superior Court, which the Court denied.  However, it was an assertion in one of Murphy’s applications that the Superior Court took the time … Read More

Comm. v. Johnson, 2018 PA Super 32 (Feb. 15, 2018)

This was an appeal out of Erie County. Johnson had previously pled guilty to two counts of robbery, and he was sentenced to an overall term of imprisonment of 8.5 to 17 years.  Following a direct appeal, Johnson filed a petition for post-conviction relief (PCRA).  The court appointed in him counsel in that regard, and counsel filed what he styled … Read More

Comm. v. Olson, 2018 PA Super 31 (Feb. 14, 2018)

This was an appeal out of Somerset County.  The significance of the appeal is in how the Pennsylvania Superior Court treated a recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Birchfield v. North Dakota, ___ U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 2160 (2016), which recently caused major changes nationwide in DUI practice.  Specifically, here, the Superior Court was answering the question of whether the Birchfield … Read More

Comm v. Johnson, 2018 PA Super 28 (Feb. 13, 2018)

This was an appeal out of Philadelphia County.  The appeal resulted from the lower court denying a Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition. The Superior Court affirmed that decision.  In his PCRA, Johnson had claimed that his trial attorney rendered ineffective assistance in five separate ways, and he also claimed that new evidence emerged after trial that would’ve changed the … Read More

Comm. v. Patterson, 2018 PA Super 24 (Feb. 8, 2018)

This was an appeal out of Westmoreland County.  Patterson was convicted of third-degree murder.  The underlying circumstances were Patterson was a customer of a local tattoo shop; he and the shop owner got into an argument over money in the parking lot, which led to a fight; and the fight resulted in Patterson shooting the shop owner and killing him.  … Read More

Comm. v. McCarthy, 2018 PA Super 22 (Feb. 6, 2018)

This was an appeal out of York County.  McCarthy had been charged with theft-related offenses stemming from allegations that he misappropriated $90,000 from his mother suffering from dementia. He was convicted after a jury trial, and three issues were raised on appeal.  The issue of primary importance, which drew a dissenting opinion, concerned admitting evidence of “waste.” In this case, … Read More