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[U] Commonwealth v. Jones

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 26, 2014



Appeal from the PCRA Order, September 20, 2012, in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Criminal Division at No. CP-02-CR-0003894-2011




Appellant appeals the order dismissing his first petition filed pursuant to the Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA"), 42 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 9541-9546. Finding no error, we affirm.

On June 2, 2011, appellant pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, fleeing or attempting to elude police officer, and a plethora of other vehicular offenses. The charges against appellant arose from an incident that occurred during the early morning hours of April 18, 2010, in Robinson Township. At that time, police officer Bradley Mermon observed appellant make two turns without using his signal. Mermon had earlier noticed a car similar to appellant's parked in the parking lot of the Pittsburgh Motel, a known drug-trafficking area. When Mermon attempted to make a traffic stop of appellant, a high-speed pursuit ensued. Appellant eventually entered an exit ramp from the northbound lanes of Interstate 79, heading southbound. Appellant ultimately collided with another vehicle exiting northbound, resulting in the deaths of a passenger from each vehicle.

After appellant was arrested, he was returned to the state of Florida to finish serving an unrelated federal sentence. On December 14, 2010, the Commonwealth issued a writ, pursuant to the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act ("IAD"), § 1, 18 U.S.C.A., App.2 et seq., 42 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 9101-9108, to return appellant to Pennsylvania for trial in this matter. Appellant was returned to the Commonwealth on December 28, 2010.

On January 20, 2011, appellant moved for a continuance as he was unready for trial, and a continuance was granted until February 18, 2011. On February 15, 2011, the Commonwealth moved for a continuance, and one was granted until March 11, 2011. On March 8, 2011, appellant again moved for a continuance as he was unready for trial, and a continuance was granted until March 30, 2011. As noted, appellant was ultimately brought to trial on June 2, 2011, where he entered a negotiated guilty plea.

Immediately following his plea, appellant was sentenced to the negotiated term of two to five years' imprisonment. No timely post-sentence motions were filed, [1] and no direct appeal was taken. Eventually, on May 24, 2012, appellant timely filed the instant PCRA petition, pro se. Among the issues set out in the pro se petition was one stated as, "Violation of the Interstate Agreement on Detainer's Act Pa 9101." No further explication on the issue was given.

Counsel was appointed, but on August 7, 2012, counsel filed a "no-merit" brief and petition to withdraw pursuant to Turner-Finley practice. See Commonwealth v. Turner, 518 Pa. 491, 544 A.2d 927 (1988); Commonwealth v. Finley, 550 A.2d 213 (Pa.Super. 1988) (en banc). The no-merit brief failed to address appellant's IAD claim. On August 9, 2012, the PCRA court entered an order permitting counsel to withdraw and issuing notice, pursuant to Pa.R.Crim.P., Rule 907, 42 Pa.C.S.A., of its intention to dismiss appellant's petition without hearing. As noted, the petition was dismissed September 20, 2012, and appellant filed this timely appeal.[2]

On appeal, appellant claims that the Commonwealth failed to bring him to trial within 120 days of his return to Pennsylvania in violation of the IAD. We find that appellant's issue is not cognizable under the PCRA, and that, at any rate, appellant was tried within 120 days of his return to Pennsylvania.

Our standard of review for an order denying post-conviction relief is whether the record supports the PCRA court's determination, and whether the PCRA court's determination is free of legal error. Commonwealth v. Franklin, 990 A.2d 795, 797 (Pa.Super. 2010). The PCRA court's findings will not be disturbed unless there is no support for the findings in the certified record. Id.

Appellant's issue is not cognizable under the PCRA. The PCRA limits those issues that may be heard under its rubric. Within those limitations a claim such as appellant's could possibly be raised under only the following:

(2) That the conviction or sentence resulted from one or more of the following:
(viii) A proceeding in a tribunal without jurisdiction. 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9543(a)(2)(viii).

Unfortunately for appellant, this court has previously ruled that the IAD is not a jurisdictional provision, but a personal statutory right. Commonwealth v. Mallon, 421 A.2d 234, 238 (Pa.Super. 1980). Therefore, appellant cannot position his issue under Section 9543(a)(2)(viii), and there is no other cognizable basis available. Moreover, even if cognizable, appellant was brought to trial within the limits of the IAD.

Under the IAD, a defendant must be brought to trial within 120 days of the date the defendant is returned to the state. § 2, 18 U.S.C.A. App.2, Article IV (c); 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9101, Article IV (c). However, during those time periods when the defendant is unable to stand trial, the running of the time periods shall be tolled. § 2, 18 U.S.C.A. App.2, Article VI (a); 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9101, Article VI (a). Thus, we may now calculate the various dates applicable to appellant to determine if the Commonwealth timely brought him to trial under the IAD.

Appellant was returned to Pennsylvania on December 28, 2010. The Commonwealth had to bring appellant to trial within 120 days, or by April 27, 2011. However, appellant twice requested continuances because he was unable to proceed to trial. The periods chargeable to these continuances were January 20, 2011 to February 15, 2011, a period of 26 days, and March 8, 2011 to March 30, 2011, a period of 22 days. Thus, the time for the Commonwealth to bring appellant to trial was tolled for 48 days. If we add 48 days to the original deadline of April 27, 2011, we arrive at a new deadline of June 14, 2011. The Commonwealth brought appellant to trial on June 2, 2011. Thus, there was no violation of the IAD.

Accordingly, having found no merit in the issue on appeal, we will affirm the order below. We note that appellant has filed petitions for relief with this court on September 9, 2013, and October 29, 2013, which merely ask that this court rule in his favor. These will also be denied.

Order affirmed.

Petitions for relief denied.

Judgment Entered.

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