Question: My brother was charged with murder in Philadelphia and convicted at trial. He is serving his sentence right now. He has always insisted that he was with a girl at the time of the murder. He met her earlier in the night and was hanging out with her on the night the victim was murdered. My brother didn’t get the girl’s number and didn’t have her contact information. His lawyer also never found the girl to testify at trial. Recently, my brother’s friend saw the girl and was able to get her contact information. Can we appeal my brother’s case?
Answer: Yes, he may be able to file a PCRA petition to request a new trial. Per Pennsylvania’s PCRA law, a defendant may file a PCRA petition if he was convicted of a crime, and if one of the following conditions is met:
- the defendant is currently in prison for the crime,
- the defendant is on death row, or
- the defendant is serving a sentence for another crime and must complete that sentence before serving the sentence for the crime he was convicted for.
There are different claims a defendant may argue in a Philadelphia PCRA petition. Though you’ve provided some details of your brother’s case, there may be other important issues we need to discuss. My answer is based on the information you provided, and there may be other PCRA claims. Therefore, it is best to talk to a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer who handles PCRA petitions.
In your brother’s case, it seems likely that a PCRA petition may be filed based on the claim of newly discovered evidence. However, the newly discovered evidence has to meet the law’s definition which is complex and not as simple as the phrase itself suggests.
In order to prevail in a PCRA petition based on newly discovered evidence, the evidence cannot have been reasonably discoverable before, and if the evidence was presented at the time of trial, it would have changed the outcome of the trial.
Related: PCRA Petitions – New Trial Based On New Alibi Witness
In your brother’s case, if his lawyer used all means to try to find the girl, i.e., talked to everyone at the party, hired an investigator to locate the girl all over the United States, etc., but still could not find her, then the girl could not have been reasonably discovered. In addition, if the girl was called as a witness at trial, her testimony would have changed the outcome of the trial because your brother was with her at the time of the murder.
Again, I don’t have all the information, and there may be other claims he can make in a PCRA petition. It is best that we talk to discuss the details about the murder charge and conviction.
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