Email or Call (215) 564-0644

    PA Post Conviction Relief Act Petition – Recantation Testimony

    There are several grounds of appeal defendants can present in their Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petitions after being convicted at trial. One of those grounds is newly discovered evidence.

    See Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) Petition – Newly Discovered Evidence

    Newly discovered evidence can consist of various things, and one of them is recantation testimony of a witness. Recantation testimony is a statement of a witness who changes key elements of their original testimony.

    As we discussed in previous PCRA articles relating to newly discovered evidence, in order for a court to grant a defendant’s PCRA petition, the defendant must prove:

    1. the evidence was unavailable during trial,
    2. the evidence was exculpatory in nature, and
    3. the outcome of the trial would have been different if the evidence was available.

    In order for recantation testimony to qualify as newly discovered evidence, a defendant must establish the above 3 things. In addition, the court must also find that the recantation testimony is credible.

    It is well accepted that recantation testimony is unreliable, especially when it involves an admission of perjury. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held that in order for relief to be granted based on newly discovered evidence in the form of recantation testimony, the defendant must establish that:

    (1) the evidence has been discovered after trial and it could not have been obtained at or prior to trial through reasonable diligence;
    (2) the evidence is not cumulative;
    (3) it is not being used solely to impeach credibility; and
    (4) it would likely compel a different verdict. Further, the proposed new evidence must be producible and admissible.

    See Commonwealth v. Smith (Pa. 2011).

    In Commonwealth v. McCracken, the court granted the defendant’s PCRA petition and ordered a new trial. In this case the defendant was convicted of murder in the second degree, two counts of robbery and one count of criminal conspiracy after a robbery at a deli.

    The defendant allegedly robbed a deli and shot a customer during the robbery. Other than the Commonwealth’s star witness, who testified that he saw the defendant enter and leave the deli, there was little evidence connecting the defendant to the crime. Years later, the witness recanted his testimony. He stated that he did not tell the truth at trial and did not know who entered and left the deli. He further stated that he understood he could face perjury prosecution.

    The court found that the recantation testimony met the standard governing newly discovered evidence. It was not available at trial, it was not cumulative, and was likely to have resulted in a different verdict because of the limited evidence connecting defendant to the crime. Further, the court found the witness recantation testimony credible.

    Filing a PCRA Petition in Pennsylvania

    If you or a loved one is considering filing a PCRA petition in Pennsylvania, please contact our office for a FREE case evaluation. Our criminal defense lawyers are experienced trial and appellate lawyers. (215) 564-0644

    Disclaimer: This website does not create any attorney-client relationship or provide legal advice. Our lawyers provide legal advice only after accepting a case. It is imperative that any action taken is done on advice of counsel. Read full disclaimer below.

    David S. Nenner

    "Top Rated Criminal Defense Lawyer"

    MURDER, Att. Murder CHARGES – Negotiated Significantly Lower prison sentence (Feb. 2022, PHILA)

    Mr. Anderson faced murder and attempted murder charges after an incident in Northeast Philadelphia involving the shooting death of Anderson’s sister’s boyfriend and the boyfriend’s roommate who was shot 5 times and survived. The decedent had previously beaten the...


    The Commonwealth alleged that Mr. Shelton shot and seriously injured a male in a bar in North Philadelphia called Circles. There was video of the shooting which happened outside the bar. However, Mr. Nenner presented witnesses who testified that the person in the bar...


    Mr. Nenner's client was charged with multiple crimes (murder, conspiracy, aggravated assault, robbery, etc.) after a shooting death occurred at a gambling house in North Philadelphia. At trial, Mr. Nenner successfully presented a self-defense argument and convinced...


    Mr. Nenner’s client was charged with murder and gun charges in Philadelphia. The client was accused of shooting and killing another male on Arch Street near the 5600 block of Ithan Street in Philadelphia. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty after deliberating...

    Drug Possession Case – Motion to Suppress Granted

    Mr. Nenner presented evidence that to show that the traffic stop was a pretextual stop. The officer had no reason to pull the car over. The judge agreed and suppressed the evidence. As a result, the prosecution withdrew the charges.

    Sentencing for 1st Degree Murder in PA

    In this article below we discuss sentencing for 1st degree murder cases in Pennsylvania. In later articles, we will discuss sentencing for 2nd and 3rd degree murder cases. If you or a loved one is facing murder charges in Philadelphia or the surrounding counties,...

    Philadelphia Criminal Trials – Evidence Pointing to Another Perpetrator in Drug Possession or Drug Manufacture Cases

    In criminal trials in Philadelphia, one pretty common defense tactic is pointing the finger at another person at trial. This can raise enough doubt to result in a not guilty verdict by the judge or jury that the defendant was not the perpetrator of the crime. Here’s...

    Philadelphia Murder & Gun Possession Cases Increasing in 2021 – A Look at Common Charges & Defenses

    A look at PA criminal law for Murder (1st, 2nd, 3rd Degree), Aggravated Assault, Robbery, Possession of a Firearm, Carrying a Firearm Without a License, Carrying a Firearm in Philadelphia (misdemeanor).

    Pennsylvania Murder Charges, Deceased Person’s Statements Used to Prove Guilt

    Defense Trial Strategies – Excluding Statements That Accuse the Defendant Prosecutors often look to a deceased individual’s statements made prior to a murder to show that the defendant is guilty. These statements may point to a history of violence between the deceased...

    Pennsylvania (State) Drug Charges, Dog Sniffs & Constitutional Law

    Federal and Pennsylvania state courts treat narcotics dog searches differently. So different that the same scenario could result in different outcomes in federal versus state court. For example, a Philadelphia resident is pulled over for speeding. During the traffic...