The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mitchell, M.J.
Memorandum Opinion and Order
John M. Hull has presented a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. For the reasons set forth below, the petition will be dismissed, and because reasonable jurists could not conclude that a basis for appeal exists, a certificate of appealability will be denied. An appropriate Order will be entered.
John M. Hull, an inmate at State Correctional Institution- Greene has presented a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. In an order entered on September 29, 2008, the respondents and the District Attorney of Allegheny County were directed to respond and show cause, if any, why the relief sought should not be granted.
Hull is presently serving a life and consecutive fifteen to forty year sentence following his his conviction by a jury of homicide, robbery, burglary, violation of the Uniform Firearms Act and criminal conspiracy at Nos. CC199407634 and CC 199407505 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. This sentence was imposed on May 15, 1995.*fn1
An appeal was taken to the Superior Court in which the issues presented were:
I. When a key Commonwealth witness is not entitled to the post-conviction relief conceded by the District Attorney, the District Attorney deprives the defendant of due process by failing to disclose an agreement to favorably treat the PCRA petitions of that witness in exchange for his damaging testimony.
II. By improperly and unnecessarily notifying the jury that counsel for defendant and former counsel for a witness against the defendant are members of the same Public Defender's office, the District Attorney misled the jury into believing that defense counsel was pursuing an ingenuous line of inquiry and created a conflict of interest.
III. By specifically instructing the jurors in a charge isolated from the general witness credibility charge that they "must" consider the defendant's "Vital interest" in the outcome of his trial when assessing his credibility, the trial court unduly singled out the defendant, thereby discrediting his testimony before the jury retired to deliberate, depriving him of the presumption of innocence, and invading the province of jury: trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to this charge.
IV. A. Because the evidence connecting the accused to a prior unrelated crime was weak and was introduced through witnesses having an interest in both the underlying homicide and that prior unrelated crime, the trial court erred by failing to conclude that the prejudicial effect of that evidence outweighed its probative value.
B. The trial court erred by allowing references to prior crimes or bad acts when those references were not offered to prove motive, identification, intent or the like but rather merely to show the defendant's propensity or character for such conduct.
V. When the principle witness connecting the accused to the claimed motive and the witness attributing a confession to the accused have an interest or bias inducing them to testify on the Commonwealth's behalf. Defense counsel renders ineffective assistance by failing to request the trial court to educate the jurors that the interest or bias of those witnesses should affect their credibility determinations.
VI. When evidence introduced at trial could have caused the jury to believe that an argument and struggle had provoked the homicide, the trial court erred by failing to give a requested voluntary manslaughter instruction.*fn2 On July 8, 1998, the Superior Court affirmed the judgment of sentence but remanded the "matter for an evidentiary hearing on the sole issue of whether the Commonwealth had agreed to grant favorable treatment to Demko in exchange for his testimony against appellant."*fn3
A petition for allowance of appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was filed on petitioner's behalf in which the issues raised were:
I. By remanding to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing despite its apparent acceptance of all facts necessary to the disposition of the issue presented, the Superior Court evades responsibility for awarding a new trial to a convicted murderer, creating needless delay and additional burdens on the court system.
II. The Supreme Court has never considered and is hereby urged to follow the modern trend prohibiting a trial court from instructing jurors that they "must" consider the defendant's "vital interest" in the trial's outcome when assessing his credibility, as such judicial comment burdens the presumption of innocence by singling out the defendant's testimony as unworthy of belief, invades the province of the jury by mandating that they deliberate on the defendant's motive to lie, and renders the defendant incompetent to testify on his own behalf.*fn4 Leave to appeal was denied on February 9, 1999.*fn5
Pursuant to the remand of the Superior Court, on September 28-29, 1999, the trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the issue remanded. On July 13, 2001, the trial court entered an order affirming the judgment of sentence and ...