A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

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By Burt Rose

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COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. Oscar CINTORA, Appellant, 2013 WL 3270857, 2013 PA Super 160, 3272 EDA 2012 and 3456 EDA 2012 (June 28, 2013) was an appeal from a PCRA Order entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, Criminal Division, CP–15–CR–0001355–1994 and CP–15–CR–0001354–1994, before theSuperior Court of Pennsylvania. The case was before Judges PANELLAOLSON, and STRASSBURGER,who wrote the Opinion.

In Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012), the Supreme Court of the United States recognized a constitutional right for juveniles under the age of eighteen, holding that mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments. The Appellants asserted that their petitions fell under the exceptions at 42 Pa.C.S. § 9545(b)(1)(ii) and (iii), alleging newly discovered evidence, and a newly-recognized constitutional right to relief, pursuant toMiller. They argued that the newly-discovered evidence was the Supreme Court’s decision in Miller,which implicated the legality of their sentences.

However, the Court noted that judicial decisions cannot be considered newly-discovered facts which would invoke the protections afforded by section 9545(b)(1)(ii). Furthermore, the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Miller was filed on June 25, 2012 but the Appellants filed their petitions on September 10, 2012; thus, the petitions were untimely on this basis as well. Finally, these Appellants were 21 and 19 years old respectively when they committed the underlying crimes; therefore, the holding in Miller cannot serve as the basis for relief for them. Moreover, the Court noted that any newly-recognized constitutional rights inMiller have not been held to apply retroactively; although the PA Supreme Court has granted allocatur on the issue of whether Miller applies retroactively, it has not yet filed a decision: seeCommonwealth v. Cunningham, 51 A.3d 178 (Pa.2012).

Therefore, this PCRA petition was properly dismissed as untimely.

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