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[U] Commonwealth v. Ramsey

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 6, 2014



Appeal from the PCRA Order entered June 12, 2013, in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Criminal Division, at No(s): CP-02-CR-0003224-1986.




William Ramsey ("Appellant") appeals pro se from the order denying his petition for post-conviction relief filed pursuant to the Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA"). 42 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 9541-46. We affirm.

The pertinent facts and procedural history are as follows: On August 15, 1986, a jury convicted Appellant of first-degree murder. At the time he committed the murder, Appellant was twenty-three years of age. On October 24, 1986, the trial court sentenced Appellant to life in prison. Following the restoration of his appellate rights nunc pro tunc, Appellant filed an appeal to this Court. In an unpublished memorandum filed on February 25, 1988, we affirmed Appellant's judgment of sentence. Commonwealth v. Ramsey, 541 A.2d 793 (Pa.Super. 1988). On July 25, 1988, our Supreme Court denied Appellant's petition for allowance of appeal. Commonwealth v. Ramsey, 546 A.2d 621 (Pa. 1988).

On August 14, 2012, Appellant filed the PCRA petition at issue, and the PCRA court appointed counsel. On April 4, 2013, PCRA counsel filed a motion to withdraw and a "no-merit" letter pursuant to Commonwealth v. Turner, 544 A.2d 927 (Pa. 1988), and Commonwealth v. Finley, 550 A.2d 213 (Pa.Super. 1988) (en banc), opining that Appellant's latest PCRA petition was untimely, and Appellant was unable to establish any exception to the PCRA's time bar. Appellant filed objections on March 19, 2013. Agreeing with PCRA counsel's assessment, the PCRA court issued, on May 16, 2013, Pa.R.Crim.P. 907 notice of its intent to dismiss Appellant's petition without a hearing because it was untimely. Appellant filed a response on June 4, 2013. By order entered June 13, 2013, the PCRA court denied Appellant's PCRA petition. This timely appeal followed. The PCRA court did not require Pa.R.A.P. 1925 compliance.

This Court's standard of review regarding an order dismissing a petition under the PCRA is whether the determination of the PCRA court is supported by the evidence of record and is free of legal error. Commonwealth v. Halley, 870 A.2d 795, 799 n.2 (Pa. 2005). The PCRA court's findings will not be disturbed unless there is no support for the findings in the certified record. Commonwealth v. Carr, 768 A.2d 1164, 1166 (Pa.Super. 2001). Moreover, a PCRA court may decline to hold a hearing on the petition if the PCRA court determines that the petitioner's claim is patently frivolous and is without a trace of support in either the record or from other evidence. Commonwealth v. Jordan, 772 A.2d 1011 (Pa.Super. 2001).

Before addressing the issues Appellant presents on appeal, we must first consider whether the PCRA court properly determined that Appellant's petition for post-conviction relief was untimely. The timeliness of a post-conviction petition is jurisdictional. Commonwealth v. Albrecht, 994 A.2d 1091, 1093 (Pa. 2010) (citation omitted). Thus, if a PCRA petition is untimely, neither an appellate court nor the PCRA court has jurisdiction over the petition. Id. "Without jurisdiction, we simply do not have the legal authority to address the substantive claims" raised in an untimely petition. Id.

Generally, a petition for relief under the PCRA, including a second or subsequent petition, must be filed within one year of the date the judgment becomes final unless the petition alleges, and the petitioner proves, an exception to the time for filing the petition. Commonwealth v. Gamboa-Taylor, 753 A.2d 780, 783 (Pa. 2000); 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9545(b)(1). Under these exceptions, the petitioner must plead and prove that: "(1) there has been interference by government officials in the presentation of the claim; or (2) there exists after-discovered facts or evidence; or (3) a new constitutional right has been recognized." Commonwealth v. Fowler, 930 A.2d 586, 591 (Pa.Super. 2007) (citations omitted). A PCRA petition invoking one of these statutory exceptions must "be filed within sixty days of the date the claim first could have been presented." Id. at 783. See also 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9545(b)(2). Moreover, exceptions to the time restrictions of the PCRA must be pled in the petition, and may not be raised for the first time on appeal. Commonwealth v. Burton, 936 A.2d 521, 525 (Pa.Super. 2007); see also Pa.R.A.P. 302(a) ("Issues not raised before the lower court are waived and cannot be raised for the first time on appeal.").

Appellant's judgment of sentence became final in 1988. Because Appellant filed the instant petition over twenty years later, it is patently untimely unless he has satisfied his burden of pleading and proving that one of the enumerated exceptions applies. See Commonwealth v. Beasley, 741 A.2d 1258, 1261 (Pa. 1999).

Appellant has failed to prove the applicability of any of the exceptions to the PCRA's time restrictions. Appellant contends that his PCRA falls under the exception of subsection 9545(b)(1)(iii) because the United States Supreme Court recognized a new constitutional right in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012). In Miller, the high court held that mandatory sentences of life without parole "for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against 'cruel and unusual punishment.'" Miller, 132 S.Ct. at 2460. Appellant asserts that the Miller decision should be applied retroactively to his life sentence.

Appellant's claim fails. Our review of the record supports the PCRA court's conclusion that Miller is inapplicable to Appellant's case because Appellant was not a juvenile when he committed the murder. See Pa.R.Crim.P. 907 Notice, 3/8/13 at 1. Within his brief, Appellant argues that, "[w]hile [the Supreme Court] in Miller cited 18 as the legal age of majority, that number is arbitrary and does not account for young offenders (like [Appellant]) who may be older than 18 but whose cognitive development was not complete at the time of the offense." Appellant's Brief at 1. In addition, Appellant claims that the ...

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