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[U] Commonwealth v. Lefevre

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

September 10, 2013



Appeal from the PCRA Order September 12, 2012, in the Court of Common Pleas of Juniata County, Criminal Division, at No: CP-34-CR-0000097-1989




Jeffrey E. Lefevre (Appellant) appeals from the September 12, 2012 order which denied his petition for relief filed pursuant to the Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), 42 Pa.C.S. §§ 9541-9546. We affirm.

On January 24, 1990, Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder following a jury trial. That same day, Appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment. Appellant was 21 years old at the time of the murder.

Appellant filed post-sentence motions, which were denied, and a direct appeal, which was reportedly dismissed due to counsel for Appellant failing to file a brief. Appellant filed the instant petition on August 23, 2012.[1] This petition was denied by the PCRA court on September 13, 2012.[2] Appellant filed a timely notice of appeal. Both Appellant and the PCRA court complied with Pa.R.A.P. 1925.

Appellant presents the following issues to this Court on appeal.

A. Did the PCRA Court err when it denied Appellant's claim that Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012), violates state and federal equal protection clauses, as well as art. 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

B. Did the PCRA Court err when it denied Appellant's claim that Mandatory Life-without-parole terms for individuals over age 17, but below age 25 violates [sic] the Eighth Amendment, art. 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as art. I § 13 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

C. Did the PCRA Court err when it denied Appellant's claim that it is unconstitutional under the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions to sentence Appellant to a mandatory sentence of life-without-parole because it barred consideration of the mitigating qualities of his youth, which would have rendered the sentence a disproportionate punishment.

Appellant's Brief at 5.

Specifically, Appellant contends that the U.S. Supreme Court's holding in Miller "should be applied to his sentence by reason of Equal Protection and Pennsylvania Law[;]" that Miller "should be applied to him as a result of logical extrapolation of the precedent of the United States Supreme Court relied upon in making said decision[;]" and, that Miller "and its scientific evidence makes it cruel and unusual to sentence a 21 year old to life-without-parole." Id. at 6.

We consider Appellant's arguments under the following standard of review.

On appeal from the denial of PCRA relief, our standard of review calls for us to determine whether the ruling of the PCRA court is supported by the record and free of legal error. The PCRA court's findings will not be disturbed unless there is no support for the findings in the certified record. The PCRA court's factual determinations are entitled to deference, but its legal determinations are subject to our plenary review.

Commonwealth v. Nero, 58 A.3d 802, 805 (Pa. Super. 2012) (quotations and citations omitted).

Generally, a petition for relief under the PCRA must be filed within one year of the date the judgment of sentence is final unless the petition alleges, and the petitioner proves, that an exception to the time for filing the petition is met.[3] 42 Pa.C.S. § 9545. The timeliness of a post-conviction petition is jurisdictional. Commonwealth v. Robinson, 12 A.3d 477, 479 (Pa. Super. 2011).

Instantly, it is clear that Appellant's petition is facially untimely. While Appellant does not directly address timeliness in his brief, Appellant indicated in his pro se PCRA petition that he satisfied all three of the timeliness exceptions set forth at 42 Pa.C.S. § 9545(b)(1). The statute enumerates these exceptions as follows.

(1) Any petition under this subchapter, including a second or subsequent petition, shall be filed within one year of the date the judgment becomes final, unless the petition alleges and the petitioner proves that:

(i) the failure to raise the claim previously was the result of interference by government officials with the presentation of the claim in violation of the Constitution or laws of this Commonwealth or the Constitution or laws of the United States;
(ii) the facts upon which the claim is predicated were unknown to the petitioner and could not have been ascertained by the exercise of due diligence; or
(iii) 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.

42 Pa.C.S. § 9545(b)(1).

With regard to the first of these timeliness exceptions, Appellant fails entirely to plead or explain how his case falls within the language of Section 9545(b)(1)(i). Accordingly, he is not entitled to relief under this exception.

Appellant is not entitled to relief under the second timeliness exception either. "Our Courts have expressly rejected the notion that judicial decisions can be considered newly-discovered facts which would invoke the protections afforded by section 9545(b)(1)(ii)." Commonwealth v. Cintora, 2013 WL 3270857 at *3 (Pa. Super. filed June 28, 2013) (holding that the Supreme Court's decision in Miller did not entitle the appellants to relief under Section 9545(b)(1)(ii)).

Finally, the third timeliness exception also does not apply to Appellant's petition. First, Miller has not been held to apply retroactively. Indeed, our Supreme Court's pronouncement on retroactive application of Miller is pending. See Commonwealth v. Cunningham, 51 A.3d 178 (Pa. 2012) (granting allowance of appeal to consider the issue of whether the holding of Miller "retroactively applies to an inmate serving [a mandatory life sentence without parole] when the inmate has exhausted his direct appeal rights and is proceeding under the Post Conviction Relief Act.").

Furthermore, the holding of Miller is "that the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders." Miller, 132 S.Ct. at 2469 (emphasis added). Appellant acknowledges that he was not a juvenile at the time he murdered his victim, but contends that the ruling in Miller should be extended to individuals under the age of 25. Appellant's Brief at 7-9. Appellant also asserts that his life sentence qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment, and that treating juvenile offenders differently than adult offenders violates equal protection principles and Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[4] Id. at 7, 10-11. These arguments fail to bring

Appellant's petition under the language of 42 Pa.C.S. § 9545(b)(iii), and Appellant is not entitled to relief on either of these bases.

Accordingly, because Appellant did not plead facts that would establish an exception to the PCRA's timeliness requirements, the PCRA court properly dismissed Appellant's petition.

Order affirmed.

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