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

By Burt Rose
Click to download Opiniona26004_11

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has decided the matter of COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellant v. Jeffie DANIEL, Appellee, 2011 WL 4790921, 2011 PA Super 214, No. 2803 EDA 2010 (Oct. 11, 2011). This was an appeal from a Judgment of Sentence of Judge Lisa Rau of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, CP–51–CR–0000239–2009. The case was before Judges BOWES, ALLEN, and PLATT. Mike Malloy, Esq. represented the Appellee. Judge Bowes wrote the Opinion.

The Commonwealth appealed from a judgment of sentence of eleven and one-half to twenty-three months imprisonment followed by five years probation that was imposed after the Appellee had pled guilty to two counts of aggravated assault and one count of possession of an instrument of crime. Appellee nearly killed an unarmed man by stabbing him in the stomach, causing a lacerated liver and abdominal injuries, and he seriously injured another unarmed man. The first victim nearly died from his stab wounds. Neither victim was armed.

The offenses of aggravated assault at issue in this case were assigned an offense gravity score of eleven because both victims sustained serious bodily injury. The guidelines called for a standard range sentence for each aggravated assault of four and one-half to six years plus or minus twelve months for the aggravated/mitigated ranges. The Appellee was sentenced to two concurrent terms of eleven and one-half to twenty-three months imprisonment, made immediately eligible for parole, and given a probationary term of five years.

On appeal, the Commonwealth contended that the lower court’s decision to sentence so dramatically below the guidelines was unreasonably lenient, was dependent upon improper factors and factual findings unsupported by the record, disregarded the serious nature of the offenses, and ignored the Appellee’s criminal background, which demonstrated that he had consistently engaged in more serious criminal behavior.

Judge Bowes agreed that the Appellee’s history and characteristics demonstrated that he had engaged in increasingly serious criminal behavior. Also, Appellee did not accept responsibility for his actions, according to the presentence report. The Panel noted that the sentence imposed was one-quarter of the sentence outlined as the minimum standard-range sentence for a single aggravated assault, despite the vicious nature of the attacks and the dramatic injuries suffered by the victims. In imposing sentence, the trial court had relied on the fact that the defendant’s actions resulted from his drug addiction and that by pleading guilty, he accepted responsibility for his actions. The Panel concluded that these reasons were not sufficient to justify this drastic downward departure from the guidelines.

Judge Bowes held that the sentencing court had overlooked the brutality of these crimes and had improperly diminished the significance of the defendant’s prior criminal history. Similarly, Appellee’s use of drugs and/or alcohol and entry of a plea did not justify “the extreme leniency accorded him given the ferocity of his attacks and his prior criminal history.” Thus, the Panel concluded that in light of the factors outlined in § 9781(d), the “extreme downward departure from the guidelines was irrational and unsound.”

The case was remanded for resentencing.

The Free Student Research Center is now OPEN. It will be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 9AM to 3PM. The Free Student Research Center is available for use by attorneys who are current members of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section and who are court-appointed to the case for which they seek research (either state or CJA!).

The Free Student Research Center is located in the Jack Myers Memorial Lounge on the Third Floor of the CJC. You may make a research request in person or via the Criminal Justice Section website at http://www.philadelphiabar.org/page/CJResearch

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