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Commonwealth v. Wiley

February 20, 2009


Appeal from the PCRA Order January 5, 2007 In the Court of Common Pleas of Lawrence County Criminal Division at No. CP-37-CR-0001144-1994.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bender, J.



¶ 1 Dana Wiley appeals from the January 5, 2007 order that dismissed his second petition filed pursuant to the Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), 42 Pa.C.S. §§ 9541-46. We vacate the order that dismissed the PCRA petition and we remand to the PCRA court for further proceedings as explained herein.

¶ 2 Appellant pled guilty to aggravated assault on May 11, 1995. The trial court sentenced Appellant to three to six years' imprisonment on August 21, 1995. This sentence was imposed consecutively to a prior sentence for a separate conviction of armed robbery, which was docketed in the trial court at docket number 1139 of 1994.*fn1 No direct appeal was effectuated.

¶ 3 However, on February 25, 2000, Appellant filed his first PCRA petition pro se. The petition was essentially incomprehensible, but it appeared to allege that certain unspecified evidence was withheld, and it included an appended list of proposed witnesses including Tupac Shaker, Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, John Walsh (host of the television show, America's Most Wanted), and Suge Knight (co-founder of Death Row Records). It does not appear that a counseled petition was ever filed. Instead, on the same date, the trial court granted a rule upon the Commonwealth to show cause why a hearing should not be granted on the petition.

¶ 4 In response, on March 6, 2000, Appellant filed a pro se document entitled "Appeal of P.C.C.R. Hearing being Deny on prejudice bye Court's [sic]." The trial court entered an order on March 8, 2000, indicating that "upon consideration of the Defendant's 'Appeal of P.C.C.R. Hearing being Deny on prejudice by[] Court's [sic],' it is ORDERED and DECREED that the same shall be filed of record and counsel for the Defendant shall take any action that counsel deems appropriate." Order, 3/8/00. However, as with the initial PCRA petition, it appears that counsel took no action.

¶ 5 Rather, on March 17, 2000, Appellant, again acting pro se, filed another roughly comprehensible proposed "Order of Court," in which Appellant appeared to appeal to the Superior Court from the trial court's March 8, 2000 order. Our Court received this documentation from the trial court's prothonotary on March 20, 2000. Not surprisingly, our Court returned the notice of appeal to the trial court prothonotary because it was defective in various ways, for example, the notice failed to include the names and addresses of all counsel and the trial court judge, and the filing failed to include the requisite filing fee or a notice of in forma pauperis status.

¶ 6 On May 18, 2000, Appellant filed a pro se request to proceed in forma pauperis with the trial court. On the same date, Appellant re-filed his pro se "Notice of Appeal," seeking to appeal "to Superior Court of Pennsylvania from the order entered in this matter on Aug, 21, 95 [sic]" which was the date Appellant's judgment of sentence was imposed. Thus, at that point, it appeared that Appellant was attempting to take an untimely direct appeal from his judgment of sentence. Appellant included a list of the names and addresses of counsel and the trial court with his notice of appeal. As his own counsel, he listed Harry O. Falls, Esq., who had represented Appellant during his guilty plea proceedings, but who apparently did nothing thereafter. This notice of appeal was forwarded to our Court on May 18, 2000. Appellant filed a pro se brief with our Court, the caption of which indicated that he was appealing both the judgment of sentence entered on August 21, 1995, and also the order of February 25, 2000 (which was the trial court's order merely issuing a rule upon the Commonwealth to explain why a PCRA hearing would not be necessary), and the order of March 8, 2000 (which was the order filing of record Appellant's pro se "Appeal of P.C.C.R. Hearing being Deny on prejudice bye Court's," and directing Appellant's counsel to take appropriate action). Appellant's appeal from his judgment of sentence was clearly untimely and the other two orders were obviously interlocutory orders that were not even mentioned in the initial notice of appeal. On August 11, 2000, the trial court filed an order summarizing the above filings and indicating that the notice of appeal (apparently taken from his judgment of sentence) divested the trial court of jurisdiction to continue with the outstanding PCRA proceeding.

¶ 7 On January 31, 2001, our Court filed a Judgment Order quashing the appeal. The panel disposing of the appeal treated it as an appeal from the interlocutory orders noted above:

It is evident from Appellant's brief that he is appealing the trial court's orders of February 25, 2000 and March 8, 2000. It also appears from the record that Appellant's PCRA proceeding was still ongoing at the time Appellant filed his appeal and that the orders from which Appellant appeals were not instantly appealable.

Commonwealth v. Wiley, No. 1059 WDA 2000, unpublished memorandum at 1 n.1 (Pa. Super. filed January 31, 2001). Despite the confusion with regard to what order Appellant was challenging, we quashed the appeal due to the numerous defects and violations of our rules of appellate procedure contained in the essentially incomprehensible brief Appellant filed pro se with our Court. To add to the confusion in this case, our Court's action was noted on the trial court's docket as affirming the judgment of sentence, even though our judgment order indicated only that the appeal was quashed for a defective brief.

¶ 8 On October 15, 2001, Appellant filed a pro se "Motion for inffective [sic] assistance." Although again difficult to comprehend, it appears that Appellant was, understandably, complaining about the abject lack of representation by counsel. On November 29, 2001, the trial court, apparently treating Appellant's ineffectiveness motion as a second PCRA petition, entered the following order:

[A]fter review of the attached pro se Motion For Ineffective Assistance, the Defendant having filed multiple motions for post-conviction relief and the present motion setting forth no new basis for relief under the Post-conviction Relief Act, it is therefore ORDERED and DECREED ...

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