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[U] Commonwealth v. Doty

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 25, 2014



Appeal from the Order Entered on May 30, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County Criminal Division at No.: CP-25-CR-0001370-2008




Christopher Doty ("Doty") appeals from the May 30, 2013 order dismissing his second pro se petition pursuant to the Post-Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA").[1] Doty has failed substantively to comply with our rules of appellate procedure, specifically the rules' briefing and timeliness requirements. Thus, Doty has failed properly to invoke our jurisdiction.

We review the factual and procedural history of this case, but briefly. Doty was charged in connection with the April 24, 2008 assault of Kyle Miles, which left Miles with chronic, debilitating injuries. See Criminal Complaint, 6/5/2008. On January 20, 2009, a jury found Doty and two co-defendants guilty of conspiracy and aggravated assault.[2] See Commonwealth v. Doty ("Doty II"), 48 A.3d 451, 453 (Pa.Super. 2012); see also Commonwealth v. Doty ("Doty I"), 997 A.2d 1184, 1186 (Pa.Super. 2010). Thereafter, on March 19, 2009, Doty failed to appear at a sentencing hearing. The trial court sentenced Doty, in absentia, to an aggregate term of 114 months' to 232 months' incarceration. Id. The trial court also imposed fees and costs, and further ordered Doty to pay $1, 500, 000 in restitution. Id. While Doty remained at-large, his direct appellate counsel filed a timely notice of appeal on April 1, 2009, and, thereafter, filed a timely statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). Law enforcement officials eventually apprehended Doty outside the Commonwealth. Id.

On June 9, 2010, a panel of this Court quashed Doty's direct appeal on the basis that he was a fugitive during the thirty-day period in which he was permitted to file a notice of appeal from his judgment of sentence. See Doty I, 997 A.2d at 1184; see also Pa.R.A.P. 903(a).

On March 10, 2011, Doty filed his first pro se PCRA petition. Counsel was appointed, who then filed an amended PCRA petition. On August 3, 2011, the trial court dismissed Doty's first PCRA petition as untimely. Upon reviewing Doty's first PCRA petition, a panel of this Court concluded that, although the PCRA court erred in deeming Doty's first petition untimely, Doty still was not eligible for relief. See Doty II, 48 A.3d at 457 (citing Commonwealth v. Judge, 797 A.2d 250, 260 (Pa. 2002)) ("In [Doty I], we held that [Doty's] fugitive status during the direct appeal period resulted in forfeiture of his right to direct review of these claims. Because [Doty] previously forfeited review of his claims on direct appeal, he is now ineligible for collateral relief[.]"). Accordingly, on July 2, 2012, this Court affirmed the PCRA court's dismissal of Doty's first PCRA petition. Doty II, 48 A.3d at 457.

On August 6, 2012, Doty filed the instant PCRA petition. Therein, Doty alleged the discovery of new, exculpatory facts in the form of an affidavit from a witness, Shawn Williams. In relevant part, Doty asserts that Williams' testimony impeaches the identity of one of the Commonwealth's witnesses at trial.[3] Doty also alleges that the Commonwealth committed a Brady[4] violation, because the Commonwealth was aware of Williams' testimony and should have turned it over to the defense. Doty's Second PCRA Petition, 8/6/2012, at 1. Doty also argues that he was "never advised [or] aware of the disadvantages of knowingly or intelligently waiving his [appellate rights.]" Id. at 2.

On September 28, 2012, the PCRA court ordered the Commonwealth to file a response to Doty's second PCRA petition. On November 27, 2012, the Commonwealth timely complied. On April 19, 2013, the PCRA court entered a notice of its intent to dismiss Doty's second PCRA petition without a hearing, see Pa.R.Crim.P. 907(1), and provided Doty twenty days from the entry of that order to file objections. On April 29, 2013, Doty filed a motion for an extension of time to file objections. On May 3, 2013, the PCRA court granted Doty's motion. Thereafter, Doty filed two sets of objections on May 3 and May 10, 2013. On May 30, 2013, the PCRA court dismissed Doty's second PCRA petition. This appeal followed.

On June 19, 2013, Doty filed a timely notice of appeal. On July 9, 2013, Doty filed a premature Rule 1925(b) statement. On July 19, 2013, the PCRA court actually ordered Doty to file a Rule 1925(b) statement. Relying upon Doty's July 9 Rule 1925(b) statement, on July 22, 2013, the PCRA court issued a Rule 1925(a) opinion incorporating by reference the reasoning set forth in its April 19 notice of intent to dismiss.

Turning to the claims presented by Doty, we preliminarily observe the following with regard to pro se appellants:

[A]ppellate briefs and reproduced records must materially conform to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure. Pa.R.A.P. 2101. This Court may quash or dismiss an appeal if the appellant fails to conform to the requirements set forth in the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure. Id.; see Commonwealth v. Lyons, 833 A.2d 245, 252 (Pa.Super. 2003). Although this Court is willing to liberally construe materials filed by a pro se litigant, pro se status confers no special benefit upon the appellant. Id. at 252. To the contrary, any person choosing to represent himself in a legal proceeding must, to a reasonable extent, assume that his lack of expertise and legal training will be his undoing. Commonwealth v. Rivera, 685 A.2d 1011, 1013 (Pa.Super. 1996).

In re Ullman, 995 A.2d 1207, 1211-12 (Pa.Super. 2010) (citations altered for clarity). The Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure provide comprehensive guidelines regarding the ...

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