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

By Burt Rose

In COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. Leonard F. STOSSEL, Appellant, 2011 WL 1366480, 2011 PA Super 79, No. 1056 WDA 2010 (April 12, 2011), the Superior Court of Pennsylvania ruled on an appeal from a PCRA Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County, Criminal Division at No. CP–07–CR–0002497–2005. The case was before Judges BENDER, SHOGAN and OTT. Judge Bender wrote the Opinion for the Panel.

Stossel appealed pro se from an order denying as untimely his first petition for post-conviction relief under the Post Conviction Relief Act, 42 Pa.C.S. §§ 9541–9546. The Panel concluded that the PCRA court erred in not holding a hearing in accordance with Commonwealth v. Grazier, 713 A.2d 81 (Pa.1998), to ensure that Stossel intelligently, knowingly, and voluntarily waived his right to representation. Judge Bender held that where an indigent, first-time PCRA petitioner is denied his right to counsel, or failed to properly waive that right, the Superior Court is required to raise this error sua sponte and remand for the PCRA court to correct that mistake. This result follows even though Stossel did not argue in this appeal that he was entitled to counsel, or in any way challenge his waiver of that right. Accordingly, this case was remanded for the PCRA court to conduct such a hearing.

Free legal research available on State and Federal court appointed cases from the Student Research Center. http://www.philadelphiabar.org/page/CJResearch?appNum=4

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