By Burt Rose
Commonweath of Pennsylvania v. Qu‘eed BATTS, Appellant, 79 MAP 2009: This was a direct appeal from the Order of the Superior Court, 766 EDA 2008 affirming the judgment of sentence of Northampton County Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division #1215–2006. The Justices wereCASTILLE, SAYLOR, EAKIN, BAER, TODD, and McCAFFERY. Justice SAYLOR wrote the Opinion without a dissent.
The case concerned the appropriate remedy, on direct appeal, for the constitutional violation occurring when a mandatory life-without-parole sentence has been imposed on a defendant convicted of first-degree murder, who was under the age of eighteen at the time of his offense.Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012), held that a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole upon a juvenile defendant violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. TheSupreme Court of Pennsylvania held that those defendants subject to non-final judgments of sentence for murder as of Miller’s issuance (6/25/12) are subject to a mandatory maximum sentence of life imprisonment, accompanied by a minimum sentence determined by the common pleas court upon resentencing. As to those defendants convicted on or after the date of theMiller decision, they are subject to “high mandatory minimum sentences and the possibility of life without parole, upon evaluation by the sentencing court of criteria along the lines of those identified in Miller”.
The attorneys for the Appellant were Philip D. Lauer, Esq., Bradley Steven Bridge, Esq., Sara E. Jacobson, Esq., Marsha Levick, Esq., Karl Baker, Esq., Jessica Rachel Feierman, Esq. and Emily Cahn Keller, Esq.
Note that the issue of the retroactivity of Miller is awaiting the Court’s decision in Com. v. Cunningham; that case was also argued on Sept. 12, 2012. See below.
51 A.3d 178
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Respondent, v. Ian CUNNINGHAM, Petitioner.
Aug. 6, 2012
Petition for Allowance of Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court, No. 447 EAL 2009. Prior report: Pa.Super., 981 A.2d 915.
AND NOW, this 6th day of August, 2012, the Petition for Allowance of Appeal is GRANTED, LIMITED TO the following issue:
Did the trial court err in imposing a life sentence without parole for the crime of second degree murder?
The parties are directed to address the following related issues:
Whether the holding in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012), that a juvenile convicted of a homicide offense cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole unless there is consideration of mitigating circumstances by a judge or jury, retroactively applies to an inmate serving such sentence when the inmate has exhausted his direct appeal rights and is proceeding under the Post Conviction Relief Act?
If Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012), is determined to have retroactive effect, what is the appropriate remedy under the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act for a defendant who was sentenced to a mandatory term of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for a murder committed when the defendant was under the age of eighteen?