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

PA Flag

By Burt Rose

COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. Duane JEMISON, Jr., Petitioner, 2013 WL 3456564, 49 WAL 2013 (July 10, 2013)

A Petition for Allowance of Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court, 64 A.3d 271 (Table), was granted by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The issue is whether in a prosecution for possession of a firearm by a person not permitted to possess one, the prosecution should no longer be permitted to introduce the record of the disqualifying criminal conviction when the defendant is willing to stipulate that he is within the class of persons prohibited from possessing firearms. The Court directed the parties to address whether Pennsylvania should follow Old Chief v. United States, 519 U.S. 172 (1997), and overrule Commonwealth v. Stanley, 446 A .2d 583 (Pa.1982).

In Stanley, the appellant contended that his prior murder conviction was improperly and prejudicially admitted into evidence at trial to prove that he violated 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6105, which prohibits an individual convicted of a “crime of violence” from possessing firearms. Appellant offered to stipulate that he committed a “crime of violence”, but the prosecutor refused to accept the stipulation. Instead, the prosecutor was permitted to call a prison-records custodian and an assistant district attorney who testified that appellant was convicted of first degree murder. No reference was made to the facts underlying the prior conviction. Nevertheless, the appellant contended that in light of his offer to stipulate to a “crime of violence”, actual mention of the murder conviction was unduly prejudicial. The Court held that the appellant’s murder conviction was material and relevant to proving that he committed a crime of violence. As such, it was “proper” evidence under Commonwealth v. Evans, 465 Pa. 12, 348 A.2d 92 (1975), which held that the Commonwealth may use any “proper” evidence to prove its case, anddoes not have to accept the accused’s stipulations.

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