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[U] Commonwealth v. Bennett

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 20, 2014

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
WAYNE BENNETT, Appellant

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the PCRA Order August 24, 2012 in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal Division at No.: CP-51-CR-0933201-1991

BEFORE: GANTMAN, J., OLSON, J., and PLATT, J.[*]

MEMORANDUM

PLATT, J.

Appellant, Wayne Bennett, appeals from the order dismissing his first, counseled petition pursuant to the Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), 42 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 9541-9546, without a hearing. We affirm.

On August 10, 1991, Appellant and several others robbed a University of Pennsylvania medical student at gunpoint. During the course of the robbery, Appellant shot the victim in the head at point-blank range, killing him. On January 20, 1993, Appellant, who had confessed to the police, entered a negotiated guilty plea to first degree murder, robbery, conspiracy, and possession of an instrument of crime in exchange for the Commonwealth's agreement not to seek the death penalty. Appellant was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, and did not file a direct appeal.

Appellant filed this first PCRA petition pro se on October 8, 2010. The PCRA court appointed counsel, who filed an amended petition on January 23, 2012, requesting discharge from custody or a new trial, and alleging newly-discovered evidence "that the Commonwealth had withheld evidence that it had provided cash payments and other benefits to cooperating witnesses who testified against [Appellant] at his preliminary hearing and would have testified against [him] had he gone to trial." (PCRA Petition, 1/23/12, at unnumbered page 2 ¶ 6). The Commonwealth filed a motion to dismiss on June 4, 2012. On July 24, 2012, the PCRA court issued notice of its intent to dismiss Appellant's petition pursuant to Pa.R.Crim.P. 907(1), stating that "[the] petition is untimely and does not fall into any of the exceptions to the timeliness requirements" and "[t]he issues raised in [the] petition are without merit." (Notice, 7/24/12, at 1). The PCRA court subsequently dismissed Appellant's petition by order filed on August 24, 2012, and Appellant timely appealed to this Court.[1]

Appellant raises one question for our review:
Whether the [c]ourt erred when it dismissed the Appellant's [p]etition under the Post Conviction Relief Act on the grounds that it was time barred without considering the Appellant's substantive allegations where the facts upon which the claims were predicated were unknown to the Appellant and could not have been ascertained by the exercise of due diligence[?]

(Appellant's Brief, at 6).

When reviewing the denial of a PCRA petition, our scope of review is limited by the parameters of the act. Our standard of review permits us to consider only whether the PCRA court's determination is supported by the evidence of record and whether it is free from legal error. Moreover, in general we may affirm the decision of the [PCRA] court if there is any basis on the record to support the [PCRA] court's action; this is so even if we rely on a different basis in our decision to affirm.

Commonwealth v. Heilman, 867 A.2d 542, 544 (Pa. Super. 2005), appeal denied, 876 A.2d 393 (Pa. 2005) (citation omitted).

Because the time limits imposed by the PCRA are jurisdictional and must be strictly construed, see Commonwealth v. Fahy, 959 A.2d 312, 315 (Pa. 2008), we will begin by addressing the timeliness of Appellant's petition.

A PCRA petition "shall be filed within one year of the date the judgment [of sentence] becomes final[.]" ...


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