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[U] Commonwealth v. Battles

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 7, 2014



Appeal from the PCRA Order August 23, 2013 in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-51-CR-0727481-1987




Theresa Battles (Appellant) appeals from an order dismissing her petition filed pursuant

A jury convicted Appellant of, inter alia, second-degree murder. On June 8, 1989, the trial court sentenced Appellant to life in prison without the possibility of parole for her murder conviction. This Court affirmed the judgment of sentence. Commonwealth v. Battles, 585 A.2d 537 (Pa.Super. 1990) (unpublished memorandum). Appellant filed a petition for allowance of appeal in our Supreme Court. The Court denied that petition on August 13, 1991. Commonwealth v. Battles, 597 A.2d 1150 (Pa. 1991) (table).

On September 14, 2011, Appellant, acting pro se, filed a document entitled "PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS PETITION FOR POST-CONVICTION RELIEF MOTION FOR RELIEF NUNC PRO TUNC." Then, on May 18, 2012, Appellant filed another pro se PCRA petition. The PCRA court appointed counsel to represent Appellant, and counsel subsequently filed an amended PCRA petition. On July 10, 2013, the PCRA court issued notice that it intended to dismiss Appellant's petition as untimely filed without holding an evidentiary hearing. The court formally dismissed the petition on August 23, 2013, and Appellant timely filed a notice of appeal.

In her brief to this Court, Appellant asks us to consider one question, namely, "Is the appellant entitled to a new trial since trial counsel was ineffective when he failed to properly and fully advise the appellant with regard to a plea offer made by the prosecution?" Appellant's Brief at 4. Our standard of review of the denial of a PCRA petition is limited to examining whether the court's rulings are supported by the evidence of record and free of legal error. Commonwealth v. Anderson, 995 A.2d 1184, 1189 (Pa.Super. 2010).

Under the PCRA, all petitions must be filed within one year of the date that the petitioner's judgment became final, unless one of three statutory exceptions applies. 42 Pa.C.S. § 9545(b)(1); Commonwealth v. Chester, 895 A.2d 520, 522 (Pa. 2006). For purposes of the PCRA, a judgment becomes final at the conclusion of direct review. 42 Pa.C.S. § 9545(b)(3). "The PCRA's time restrictions are jurisdictional in nature." Chester, 895 A.2d at 522. "Thus, '[i]f a PCRA petition is untimely, neither this Court nor the trial court has jurisdiction over the petition. Without jurisdiction, we simply do not have the legal authority to address the substantive claims.'" Id. (quoting Commonwealth v. Lambert, 884 A.2d 848, 851 (Pa. 2005)).

Appellant clearly filed her petition well over one year after her judgment became final. Thus, she untimely filed the petition, unless the petition alleged and Appellant proved 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)(i)-(iii).

In her amended PCRA petition and on appeal, Appellant contends that her petition fits under the exception found at subsection 9545(b)(1)(iii). Appellant believes that in Lafler v. Cooper, 132 S.Ct. 1376 (2012), the United States Supreme Court announced a new constitutional right and that this new right not only makes her petition timely filed but also dictates that she receive PCRA relief.

In Commonwealth v. Feliciano, 69 A.3d 1270 (Pa.Super. 2013), this Court held that Lafler did not create a new constitutional right. Appellant acknowledges the holding in Feliciano but asserts that it was wrongly decided. Appellant's Brief at 17. Appellant essentially asks us to overrule Feliciano; however, we may not do so. See Commonwealth v. Hull, 705 A.2d 911, 912 (Pa.Super. 1998) ("It is beyond the power of a panel of the Superior Court to overrule a prior decision of the Superior Court."). For these reasons, subsection 9545(b)(1)(iii) does not apply to Appellant's petition.

Because the PCRA court properly determined that Appellant untimely filed her PCRA petition, we affirm the order dismissing the petition.

Order affirmed.

Judgment Entered.

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