January 8, 2014
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA Appellee
BEAU ARTHUR WILSON Appellant COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA Appellee
BEAU ARTHUR WILSON Appellant
Appeal from the PCRA Order of September 4, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of York County Criminal Division at No.: CP-67-CR-0003552-1998
BEFORE: BOWES, J., WECHT, J., and PLATT, J. [*]
Beau Arthur Wilson appeals the PCRA court's order, entered on September 4, 2012, dismissing his most recent petition under the Post-Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA"), 42 Pa.C.S. §§ 9541-46. We affirm.
The PCRA court provides the following brief factual and procedural history:
On November 3, 1999, [Wilson pleaded] no contest to one count of murder in the third degree, one count of robbery, one count of conspiracy to commit robbery, and one count of prohibited offensive weapons. On December 29, 1999, [Wilson] was sentenced to 20-to-40 years[' incarceration] for third[-]degree murder, 5-to-10 years for robbery, 5-to-10 years for conspiracy to commit robbery, and 3-to-12 months for the weapons offense. [Wilson] was a juvenile at the time the crimes were committed. [Thereafter, Wilson filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, which was denied on or about February 2, 2000.]
[Wilson] filed his first PCRA petition on July 18, 2000, which was denied after a PCRA hearing on August 25, 2000. [Wilson] filed an appeal on September 11, 2000 (docketed at 1811 MDA 2000). On October 23, 2000, we filed our [Pa.R.A.P.] 1925(a) opinion, and the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed by Opinion on September 6, 2001. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied allowance [of] appeal on January 31, 2002.
[Wilson] filed another PCRA petition on February 7, 2005, which was denied on May 2, 2005. [Wilson] filed his third PCRA petition on September 7, 2006, and on October 25, 2006, [Wilson's] petition was granted and [his] appeal rights reinstated. On November 22, 2006, [Wilson] filed an appeal, and on January 24, 2007, we issued our [Rule] 1925(a) opinion. The Superior Court quashed the appeal on April 8, 2008.
[Wilson] filed his most recent PCRA petition [on August 10, 2012, ] on the grounds that the United States Supreme Court's recent decision in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (U.S. 2012), entitles him to a different sentence because he was a juvenile at the time he committed his crimes. [Wilson's] petition was denied because it was untimely, and no exceptions to the timeliness requirement[s under the PCRA] existed.
PCRA Court Opinion ("P.C.O."), 10/12/2012, at 1-2.
The PCRA court's opinion, while accurate, leaves gaps that may create some confusion. Thus, it is necessary to supplement the above account to clarify the sequence of relevant PCRA court orders, and to explain why we resolve two separately docketed appeals in this memorandum. On August 10, 2012, Wilson filed the PCRA petition at bar. On August 14, 2012, the PCRA court issued notice pursuant to Pa.R.Crim.P. 907(1) of its intent to dismiss Wilson's petition without a hearing twenty days hence due to the petition's untimeliness under the PCRA. See Order, 8/14/2012 ("[Wilson's] judgment of sentence became final on December 29, 1999,  and no exceptions under 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9545(b) apply."). Therein, the PCRA court invited Wilson to provide a rebuttal establishing his entitlement to a hearing on his petition. Id. ("[Wilson] may respond to the proposed dismissal within twenty (20) days.").
Rather than file such a rebuttal, on August 31, 2012, before the expiration of twenty days, Wilson filed a notice of appeal with this Court. On September 4, 2012, the PCRA court entered its order dismissing Wilson's PCRA petition. Thereafter, on September 7, 2012, Wilson filed a separate notice of appeal from the PCRA court's September 4, 2012, order, in which he raised precisely the same issues in connection with the same PCRA petition. Because there was no pertinent final order on August 31, 2012, from which Wilson could have appealed, the notice of appeal from that order was a nullity. See Pa.R.Crim.P. 910 ("An order granting, denying, dismissing, or otherwise finally disposing of a petition for post-conviction collateral relief shall constitute a final order for purposes of appeal."); Commonwealth v. Liebensperger, 904 A.2d 40, 43 (Pa.Super. 2006) (same). Consequently, the only appeal at issue herein is that reflected in Wilson's September 7, 2012 notice, which effectively challenged the final order at issue in this case, the PCRA court's September 4, 2012 dismissal order. To the extent any of the above irregularities could compromise the status of Wilson's appeal, we exercise our discretion to overlook the error or errors. See generally Pa.R.A.P. 105(a) (conferring discretion upon this Court to overlook procedural errors "to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every matter to which they are applicable").
As noted, the PCRA court dismissed Wilson's petition as untimely and subject to none of the exceptions provided by subsection 9545(b) of the PCRA. See P.C.O. at 3-4. This consolidated appeal followed.
Before this Court, Wilson has set forth the following assertion of error:
[Did Wilson's] conviction or sentence result from a violation of the Constitution of this Commonwealth or the Constitution or laws of the United States, in the circumstances of the particular case, so as to undermine the truth-determining process that no reliable adjudication of guilt or innocence could have taken place.
Brief for Wilson at 7. Underlying this vague assertion of error is Wilson's contention that he accepted the terms of his plea agreement solely to avoid the imposition of a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole that then would have attached to a conviction at trial of the crime charged. Because Miller invalidated the mandatory imposition of a life sentence without parole on an offender who, like Wilson, was a juvenile at the time of his offense, Wilson submits, in effect, that his guilty plea was not entered knowingly and voluntarily. We need not reach this question, because Wilson's serial failure to address the facial untimeliness of his PCRA petition is fatal to his ability to obtain relief.
It is well-established that the PCRA's time limits are jurisdictional, and are meant to be both mandatory and applied literally by the courts to all PCRA petitions, regardless of the potential merit of the claims asserted. Commonwealth v. Murray, 753 A.2d 201, 202-03 (Pa. 2000), abrogated on other grounds, Commonwealth v. Brown, 943 A.2d 264 (Pa. 2008); Commonwealth v. Leggett, 16 A.3d 1144, 1145 (Pa.Super. 2011). "[N]o court may properly disregard or alter [these filing requirements] in order to reach the merits of the claims raised in a PCRA petition that is filed in an untimely manner." Murray, 753 A.2d at 203; see Commonwealth v. Gamboa-Taylor, 753 A.2d 780, 783 (Pa. 2000). An untimely petition may be received only "when the petition alleges, and the petitioner proves, that any of the three limited exceptions to the time for filing the petition . . . is met." Commonwealth v. Hernandez, 2013 PA.Super. 243 at *2 (Aug. 28, 2013); Commonwealth v. Geer, 936 A.2d 1075, 1077 (Pa.Super. 2007) ("To invoke an exception, the petitioner must plead it and satisfy the burden of proof.").
Any PCRA petition, including a second or subsequent petition, must be filed within one year of the date the judgment of sentence becomes final. 42 Pa.C.S. § 9545(b)(1). Wilson exhausted his direct appellate rights under Pennsylvania law on or about March 3, 2000, at the conclusion of his time for filing a direct appeal from his judgment of sentence in this Court. See Commonwealth v. Wilson, 195 MDA 2007, Slip Op. at 5 (Pa.Super. 2008) (unpublished) (citing 42 Pa.C.S. § 9545(b)(3); Pa.R.A.P. 903; Pa.R.Crim.P. 702(A)(2)(a)). Therefore, to be facially timely, Wilson was required to file a first or subsequent PCRA petition on or before March 5, 2001, because March 3, 2001, the actual anniversary of his judgment of sentence becoming final, fell on a Saturday.
The instant petition was filed on August 10, 2012. Thus, the petition facially is untimely, a jurisdictional stain that could be erased only if Wilson pleaded and proved one of the following statutory exceptions to the PCRA's strict time limit:
(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.
(2) Any petition invoking an exception provided in paragraph (1) shall be filed within 60 days of the date the claim could have been presented.
42 Pa.C.S. § 9545(b).
We find no invocation of, nor reference to, any exception to the PCRA's one-year jurisdictional time limit in Wilson's PCRA petition. In this regard, we acknowledge that the PCRA court found as follows: "It appears [that Wilson] attempts to invoke one of the exceptions to the one-year filing requirement, namely [subsection] 9545(b)(1)(iii)." P.C.O. at 3. The PCRA court rejected this contention on its terms based upon its conclusion that Miller was inapposite. P.C.O. at 3-4 ("[Wilson] was never sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. . . . Therefore, the [new constitutional rule] exception does not apply."). It is unclear where the PCRA court identified such an invocation, or whether the court simply inferred it contextually.
Regardless, we find no affirmative resort to a specific timeliness exception in his PCRA petition. Moreover, despite the fact that the PCRA court's Rule 907(1) notice specifically cited untimeliness as the basis for the court's intent to dismiss the petition without a hearing, Wilson did not avail himself of the PCRA court's invitation to show cause why a hearing should be conducted within twenty days of the notice. Instead, he opted to file a then-premature appeal. Consequently, Wilson waived any claim to a timeliness exception before the PCRA court. Therefore, albeit for slightly different reasons, we find that the PCRA court did not err in dismissing Wilson's appeal as untimely. See In re Jacobs, 15 A.3d 509, 510 n.1 (Pa.Super. 2011) ("We are not bound by the rationale of the trial court, and may affirm on any basis.").
While we may affirm the trial court's order on that basis alone, we note that Wilson has failed to plead and prove his entitlement to relief from the PCRA's one-year time limit before this Court, as well, with the same result. In his approximately one and one-third-page argument before this Court, Wilson does not even acknowledge the facial untimeliness of his petition, let alone satisfy his burden to plead and prove the applicability of one or more exceptions to the PCRA's mandatory and jurisdictional one-year time limit. See Brief for Wilson at 13-14. Consequently, we cannot decide this case on the merits. See Commonwealth v. Lewis, 63 A.3d 1274, 1279 (Pa.Super. 2013) ("The PCRA squarely places upon the petitioner the burden of proving and untimely petition fits within one of the three exceptions. Moreover, the Rules of Appellate Procedure require that an appellant properly develop his arguments on appeal." (citations omitted)).
For the foregoing reasons, the PCRA court did not err or abuse its discretion in dismissing Wilson's PCRA petition. Order affirmed. Platt, J. concurs in the result.