Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

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Appellant Qu’eed Batts was convicted of a first-degree murder that he committed when he was fourteen years old. The issue for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s review was whether the sentencing court imposed an illegal sentence when it resentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. After careful review, the Court concluded, based on the findings made by the sentencing court and the evidence upon which it relied, that the sentence was illegal in light of Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718 (2016). Pursuant to its grant of allowance of appeal, the Court further concluded that to effectuate the mandate of Miller and Montgomery, procedural safeguards were required to ensure that life-without-parole sentences were meted out only to “the rarest of juvenile offenders” whose crimes reflected “permanent incorrigibility,” “irreparable corruption” and “irretrievable depravity,” as required by Miller and Montgomery. The Pennsylvania Court recognized a presumption against the imposition of a sentence of life without parole for a juvenile offender. To rebut the presumption, the Commonwealth bears the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the juvenile offender is incapable of rehabilitation. View "Pennsylvania v. Batts" on Justia Law

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The case centered Section 6105 of the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act of 1995. Although a Section 6105 violation, by default, is graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree, subsection (a.1)(1) elevated the offense grade to a felony of the second degree where the defendant was “convicted” of any felony offense enumerated in subsection (b). In 2011, Appellee was convicted, among other things, of a Section 6105 offense, apparently based upon his possession of a firearm and the fact of a previous juvenile adjudication in 2005 for conduct which would give rise to an aggravated assault conviction if committed by an adult. Prior to sentencing, the prosecution apparently took the position that the finding of delinquency should be considered a “conviction” for purposes of the subsection (a.1)(1) enhancement. On appeal, however, the Superior Court vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing. The intermediate court explained that the term “conviction” carried a discrete legal connotation that is not generally understood to encompass juvenile adjudications. The Supreme Court granted review to determine whether juvenile adjudications of delinquency qualify as “convictions” for purposes of grading within a particularized sentencing regime. The Court held that the concept of convictions, as embodied in Section 6105, did not encompass juvenile adjudications. View "Pennsylvania. v. Hale" on Justia Law