Question: My son was convicted of murder in a trial in Philadelphia. He had an alibi on the night of the murder, but the alibi witness was not at trial. Can we file a PCRA petition to get a new trial because he had an alibi?
Answer: In general, after a defendant has been convicted of murder in a Philadelphia criminal case, he has 3 options, and one of them is filing a PCRA petition. The other 2 options are filing post-sentence motions and filing a direct appeal. These 3 options are time sensitive. In other words, these motions have to be filed within a certain time period. Therefore, it is important to talk to a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to determine which options are available to your son.
The first option is to file a post-sentence motion filed with the trial judge. The purpose of the motion is to ask the trial judge to reconsider his/her decision. Post-sentence motions must be filed within 10 days of the entry of the sentencing order.
Under Pennsylvania criminal rules of procedure, a criminal defendant can file certain post-sentence motions. These motions basically ask the trial judge to reconsider his/her decision.
Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 720 governs post-trial procedures and provides how post-sentence motions are filed, grounds for filing the motion, etc.
Again, we would need to discuss the facts of your son’s Philadelphia murder case in detail because the facts will determine the grounds for filing the motion.
For instance, the defense attorney filed a Notice of Alibi Defense. However, the alibi witness failed to show up at trial and instead showed up after the conviction. A post-sentence motion for a new trial may be filed based on the fact that the alibi witness is now available. The motion may be granted if it can be shown that the lawyer made all reasonable attempts to secure the alibi witness for trial, but due to some unforeseen circumstance, the witness did not show up.
The second option is to file a direct appeal. A defendant convicted of murder in a Philadelphia criminal case may file a direct appeal 30 days from the date of the sentencing order. However, if a post-sentence motion is filed but denied, a defendant has 30 days from the date the motion was denied to file a direct appeal.
For instance, if in your son’s case, the judge did not allow the alibi witness to testify at trial, a direct appeal may be filed on the grounds that the trial judge made an error on his/her evidence ruling. By not allowing the alibi witness to testify, the judge may have committed an error in violation of PA’s rules of evidence. The erroneous evidentiary ruling may have prevented your son from being acquitted for the murder.
The third option your son has is filing a PCRA Petition. This may be filed within 1 year of the date of the final sentencing order. However, if a post-sentence motion or direct appeal was filed, then a defendant has to file a PCRA petition within 1 year of the entry of the order denying the post-sentence motion or direct appeal.
There are many different grounds of appeal defendants may argue in PCRA petitions. Again, we would need to know the circumstances of your son’s case in order to determine what grounds of appeal may apply.
For instance, if your son’s lawyer knew about the potential alibi defense but failed to file the required Notice of Alibi Defense, your son may be able to file a PCRA petition based on ineffective assistance of counsel.
We know all of this information can be very confusing and overwhelming. It is best that you speak to an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer who handles appeals and PCRA petitions as soon as possible.
Call us today to schedule a FREE and confidential consultation to discuss your case: (215) 564-0644.
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