FREE CONSULTATIONS

Email or Call (215) 564-0644

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

    Click here to see part one of this article discussing the Montgomery decision.

    Facts and Background of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Appellee v. Justin Secreti, Appellant (Superior Court of Pennsylvania, 2016)

    In 1993, when Secreti was 16 years old, he and 2 co-defendants broke into a home, robbed and murdered the husband and wife in the home.  Secreti pled guilty to several crimes including 2 counts of first-degree murder, aggravated assault, robbery and burglary.  Secreti was sentenced to automatic life imprisonment without possibility of parole on each murder offense.  Secreti timely filed his first PCRA petition, and the court denied the petition.  Secreti filed a second PCRA, which was also denied.

    On August 15, 2012, Secreti filed a third PCRA petition after the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama, which held that it was unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life imprisonment without parole.

    Related: PCRA Petitions in Philadelphia Criminal Cases

    Though PCRA petitions must be filed within 1 year of the date the underlying judgment becomes final, there are three exceptions to this rule pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S.A. Section 9545(b)(1).

    Secreti asserted one of the exceptions per 42 Pa.C.S.A. Section 9545(b)(1)(iii), which provides:

    The right asserted is a constitutional right that was recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States or the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania after the time period provided in this section and has been held by that court to apply retroactively.

    In addition, in order to assert the timeliness exception, Secreti had to file a petition within 60 days of the date the claim could have been presented. Thus, the 60 day period started to run from the date of the Supreme Court decision in Miller.

    Secreti’s petition was again denied on December 1, 2014 because the court followed the PA Supreme Court’s ruling in Cunningham, which held that the Miller ruling should be not applied retroactively.

    On April 7, 2015, Secreti timely filed a notice of appeal.  Then in January 2016, the United States Supreme Court issued the Montgomery decision.

    The PA Superior Court said that Secreti’s case was an example of the unique situation where the petition was filed after Miller and before Montgomery.  The court ultimately held that the best resolution was to “interpret Montgomery as making retroactivity under Miller effective as of the date of the Miller decision.”

    However, the 60 day rule did not run from the date of the Miller decision.  Because the Montgomery decision was needed to clarify Miller, the court went on to say it would use “the date of the Montgomery decision solely to measure the 60-day rule of Section 9545(b)(2) (requiring petitioner asserting timeliness exception to file petition within 60 days of date claim could have been presented). Miller remains the lodestar for substantive constitutional law on this subject such that the retroactivity determination will be deemed to have existed at the time the pending petitions were filed.”

    Help With Your PCRA Petition

    If you or a loved one was sentenced to life without parole as a juvenile and have questions about how the Montgomery case may affect you, call David Nenner, a Philadelphia criminal lawyer who has extensive criminal trial experience.  Mr. Nenner has been selected by Super Lawyers as a “Top Rated Criminal Defense Attorney in Philadelphia, PA.

    Mr. Nenner always offers FREE initial consultations. 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"
    (2015-2022)

    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...

    Att. MURDER CHARGES – NOT GUILTY JURY VERDICT (April 2022, PHILA)

    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...

    MURDER, Robbery CHARGES – NOT GUILTY JURY VERDICT (MAY 2021, PHILA)

    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...

    MURDER CHARGE – NOT GUILTY JURY VERDICT (MAY 2021, PHILA)

    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...