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    PA PCRA Petitions – The Effect of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Montgomery Decision on PCRA Petitions of PA Inmates Convicted of Murder – Part I

    Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana earlier this year, many Pennsylvania inmates who were sentenced to life without parole as juveniles for crimes such as murder have hopes of getting a new sentencing hearing.  They may do so by filing a PA Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition.

    In Montgomery, the Supreme Court affirmed its earlier decision in Miller v. Alabama (2012) which held that mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment and are therefore unconstitutional.  In addition, the Montgomery Court held that Miller’s ruling should be applied retroactively. See PCRA Petitions – Recent Supreme Court Ruling Gives Hope to Juveniles Sentenced to Life in Prison, By a “Top” Rated Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer.

    However, Montgomery does not require states to grant parole to prisoners convicted as juveniles.  Rather, the decision allows for the possibility of parole for prisoners who were convicted as juveniles and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

    Why didn’t the Miller case give hope to Pennsylvania inmates sentenced to life without parole as juveniles when the Supreme Court ruled on the case in 2012?  The reason was due to the PA Supreme Court case Commonwealth v. Cunningham, which was decided the year after the Miller case, in 2013.  The PA Supreme Court in Cunningham held that the Miller ruling should not be applied retroactively.  Therefore, PCRA petitions filed by PA inmates after Miller and Cunningham were denied due to the PA Supreme Court’s ruling in Cunningham.

    Since Montgomery, decided in January 2016, is a United States Supreme Court case, it overrules Cunningham.  In other words, Cunningham no longer applies.  Therefore, many of the denied “gap” cases, i.e., PA PCRA petitions filed after Miller and before Montgomery will likely be remanded for sentencing. Such was the case in the recent PA Superior Court case, Commonwealth v. Secreti, which was decided in February 2016.

    Click here for a discussion of the Secreti case, which involved a juvenile sentenced to life without parole after being convicted of first-degree murder as a result of a home invasion.

    Help With Your PCRA Petition

    Mr. Nenner always offers FREE initial consultations. PCRA petitions are complex and require an experienced Philadelphia criminal lawyer.  Mr. Nenner has extensive criminal trial experience and has been selected by Super Lawyers as a “Top Rated Criminal Defense Attorney in Philadelphia, PA.” 215.564.0644

    Rated by Super Lawyers Magazine: “Top Rated Criminal Defense Attorney in Philadelphia, PA”

    David Nenner, Esq. has been selected to the Pennsylvania Super Lawyers list from 2015-2016.  Each year no more than 5% of the nominated lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor.

    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"

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