After defendants are convicted in a Philadelphia criminal trial or a criminal trial in other counties, such as Montgomery County, they may file an appeal in an attempt to reverse the conviction.  One of those appeals is a PA Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition.

There are limited grounds for defendants to file a PCRA petition.  In this article, we will discuss two of the most common grounds defendants present in their PCRA petitions.

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The definition of ineffective assistance of counsel is provided in Section 9543(a)(2)(ii) of the Post Conviction Relief Act, which states:

Ineffective assistance of counsel which, in the circumstances of the particular case, so undermined the truth-determining process that no reliable adjudication of guilt or innocence could have taken place.

In a nutshell, defendants have a right to competent counsel.  If counsel is not competent and their actions have an adverse effect on the trial, there may be grounds for appeal.

Defense attorneys can be ineffective in many ways.  Examples of ineffective assistance of counsel include failing to object during trial, failing to file a motion to suppress, failing to call key witnesses and failing to present evidence.  Below is an example of how counsel failed to call key witnesses during trial.

A defendant is charged with murder of a neighbor in Philadelphia.  Defendant maintains that he was not at the crime scene when the victim was killed.  There were 3 witnesses that the defendant told his counsel about who could testify to his location at the time of the murder.  However, his attorney never interviewed these witnesses.  As a result, defendant was convicted by the jury.

In such a situation, defense counsel was ineffective by failing to prepare and present the alibi defense.  Defendant may file a PCRA petition based on the ground that his defense lawyer was ineffective.


Newly discovered evidence is evidence that was not available during trial.  This new evidence, if available at trial, would have changed the outcome of the trial, i.e., acquitted the defendant.

Per the PA statute, defendant can file a PCRA petition based on newly discovered evidence if he can prove that 1. the evidence was not available at the time of trial despite due diligence, and 2. if it had been introduced at trial, it would have changed the outcome.  See Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act § 9543 (a)(2)(vi).


If you or a loved one was convicted in a criminal trial in Philadelphia and believe that you have grounds for appeal, call David S. Nenner. Mr. Nenner is a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer who is experienced in appeals and PCRA petitions. Call (215) 564-0644 to schedule a FREE consultation.