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Commonwealth v. Keaton

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

December 17, 2013

COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee
v.
Alexander KEATON, Appellant.

Submitted Aug. 22, 2013.

Appeal from the Order entered on 11/30/2012 in the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division of Philadelphia County at No. CP-51-CR-0319251-1993. Trial Court Judge: Carolyn Engel Temin, Senior Judge.

Page 420

Michael Hugh Gonzales, Esq., Hunter Stuart Labovitz, Esq., Defender Association of Philadelphia, for Alexander Keaton.

Hugh J. Burns, Esq., Philadelphia, William George Young, Esq., Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, for Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

CASTILLE, C.J., SAYLOR, EAKIN, BAER, TODD, McCAFFERY, STEVENS, JJ.

OPINION

STEVENS, Justice.

In this PCRA capital appeal, Alexander Keaton asserts the PCRA court erroneously denied his underlying claim that his invocation of a Fifth Amendment right to counsel during custodial interrogations on a rape charge invalidated uncounseled, incriminating statements he gave weeks later in unrelated murder and rape cases. Finding evidentiary support for the PCRA court's factual determination that Keaton never invoked his right to counsel in the initial rape case, we affirm.

Page 421

The underlying facts and procedural history are set forth in our earlier disposition of Keaton's PCRA appeal, Commonwealth v. Keaton, 615 Pa. 675, 45 A.3d 1050 (2012), and may be reproduced herein as follows:

In December, 1992, Keaton was charged with rape and related offenses stemming from the November, 1992 sexual assault of Nadine S. One month later, the body of Keaton's ex-girlfriend, Sherrill Ann Hall, was found. Police questioned Keaton, who was in custody for the attack on Nadine S., about Hall's death. After waiving his rights, Keaton gave a written statement incriminating himself in the killing, and he was charged with murder. Later that day, police questioned Keaton about the June, 1992 rape of another woman, Michelle B. After waiving his rights, Keaton gave a written statement in which he admitted having oral sex with this victim, but denied assaulting her. He was charged with the rape of Michelle B. and related offenses.
The Commonwealth moved to consolidate the charges for all three victims. Over defense objection, the trial court granted the motion. Prior to trial, Keaton moved to suppress his statements; the motion was denied, and Keaton was tried before a jury and found guilty of first degree murder, rape, and related offenses. At the penalty phase, the Commonwealth sought to prove the following aggravating circumstances: the murder was committed in the perpetration of a felony, 42 Pa.C.S. § 9711(d)(6); and the defendant had a significant history of felony convictions involving the use or threat of violence to the person, id., § 9711(d)(9). Keaton sought to establish the following mitigating circumstances: he was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance because of his drug addiction, id., § 9711(e)(2); his age (31) at the time of the crime, id., § 9711(e)(4); and any other evidence of mitigation concerning his character and record or the circumstances of the offense, id., § 9711(e)(8). The jury found no mitigating circumstances and one aggravating circumstance, that the murder occurred in perpetration of the felony of rape, id., § 9711(d)(6); accordingly, Keaton was sentenced to death. Id., § 9711(c)(1)(iv).
This Court affirmed on direct appeal, and the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari. Keaton v. Pennsylvania, 528 U.S. 1163, 120 S.Ct. 1180, 145 L.Ed.2d 1087 (2000). Keaton timely filed a pro se PCRA petition and received appointed counsel, who filed an amended petition alleging all prior counsels' ineffectiveness for not raising numerous guilt and penalty phase issues. The PCRA court held a hearing on the sole issue of trial counsel's ineffectiveness for failing to investigate and present mitigating evidence at the penalty phase. The PCRA court rejected Keaton's guilt phase claims, denying him a new trial; however, the court concluded trial counsel was ineffective for failing to develop and present mitigating evidence, and granted a new penalty hearing.
Keaton appealed from the denial of his guilt phase issues the Commonwealth appealed from the grant of a new penalty phase. The PCRA court's Rule 1925(a) opinion did not address several of the issues in detail, merely stating it found Keaton's claims of guilt phase error meritless and would not further discuss them; the only penalty phase issue the court addressed was trial counsel's ineffectiveness for not investigating and presenting mitigating evidence at ...

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