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Commonwealth v. Owens

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

June 17, 2013

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
DIERDRE OWENS, Appellant

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the PCRA Order December 3, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County Criminal Division at No(s): MD-758-1985

BEFORE: SHOGAN, J., LAZARUS, J., and PLATT, J. [*]

MEMORANDUM

LAZARUS, J.

Dierdre Owens appeals pro se from the trial court's order dismissing[1]her third[2] petition filed pursuant to the Post Conviction Relief Act.[3] In 1986, Owens was convicted of first-degree murder[4] and related offenses. She was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Owens was 19 years old at the time she committed the offenses.

On appeal, Owens raises the following issues for our review:

(1) Whether the PCRA [court] erred by not appointing counsel to ammend [sic] the petition before the court by citing Rule 904 (E) or granting Petitioner a hearing to present her arguments fully with the court.
(2) Whether the PCRA court erred in judgement [sic] [in determining that] the [sic] Miller v. Alabama and the science validated in the case listed in the petition's exhibits would not apply to the petitioner when in fact the Petitioner was [a] teenager.
(3) Whether the PCRA court erred in not considering that a mandatory life-without-parole sentence for a teenager with their unique hallmark features violates the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, art[.] 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as art. I, § 13 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
(4) Whether the PCRA court erred by not granting a new trial with a "life-qualified" jury in light of Petitioner's age at the time of the offense.

In Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 2464 (2012), the United States Supreme Court held that sentencing a juvenile convicted of a homicide offense to life imprisonment without parole violates the Eight Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Accordingly, such sentences cannot be handed down unless a judge or jury first considers mitigating circumstances. Id. at 2475. The holding in Miller, however, was limited to those offenders who were under the age of 18 at the time they committed their crimes. Id.[5] at 2460.

Because Owens was 19 years old at the time she committed the underlying offenses, Miller is inapplicable and she is not entitled to relief. Van Horn, supra.[6]

Order affirmed.[7]


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