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Commonwealth v. McGarrell

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

March 21, 2014

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Respondent
v.
SHIRVIN MCGARRELL, Petitioner COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Respondent
v.
DARRYL YOUNG, Petitioner COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Respondent
v.
HERMAN BURTON, Petitioner

ORDER

PER CURIAM

AND NOW, this 21st day of March, 2014, the Motion for Leave to File a Reply, filed August 17, 2011, is DISMISSED, the "Application for Leave to File Response the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Order of 12/12/2012 [sic]" is DENIED AS MOOT, and the Motion for Leave to File a Reply, filed September 23, 2013, is GRANTED.

Upon consideration of the Updated Report and Recommendations of the Special Master, the Honorable Benjamin Lerner, and the responses of the parties, the "Petition for Extraordinary Relief and/or Issuance of a Writ of Mandamus" is DISMISSED. The Court accepts the Updated Report and Recommendations, and thanks Judge Lerner for his exemplary efforts and analysis. At this juncture, the continued oversight of this Court is no longer required.

Jurisdiction relinquished.

Mr. Justice Saylor files a Dissenting Statement, in which Madame Justice Todd and Mr. Justice McCaffery join.

Mr. Justice McCaffery files a Dissenting Statement, in which Madame Justice Todd joins.

DISSENTING STATEMENT

MR. JUSTICE SAYLOR

During my tenure on the Court I have been dismayed by the deficient performance of defense counsel in numerous Pennsylvania death-penalty cases. Recently, I collected some observations in my special concurrence in Commonwealth v. King, 57 A.3d 607, 633-38 (Pa. 2012) (Saylor, J., concurring specially), including a sampling of instances of substandard lawyering and remarks about the present litigation, which I incorporate by reference here.

Significantly, Pennsylvania has long been on notice that leaders of national, state, and local bar associations do not believe that capital litigation is being conducted fairly and evenhandedly in the Commonwealth, not the least because of the ad hoc fashion by which indigent defense services are funded from the local government level.[1]Such concerns are consistent with vast compilations of literature containing evidence of long-standing, chronic underfunding of public defense systems in the United States. See generally Nat'l Right to Counsel Comm., Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel, Const. Project 2-3 (2009). [2]Nevertheless, this Court seems unable to attend to the apparent systemic difficulties in individual capital cases considered on appeal, as, doctrinally, the adjudicatory focus is on the facts at hand relative to an array of widely disparate claims of deficient stewardship.

Thus, the present litigation offers an essential opportunity for this Court to address a systemic challenge amidst much evidence that Pennsylvania's capital punishment regime is in disrepair. See King, 57 A.3d 607, 633-38 (Saylor, J., concurring specially). While the local government in Philadelphia has undertaken to implement some modest reform measures relative to legal-services funding in the death-penalty arena, Petitioners reasonably question the adequacy of such changes, while pointing to other jurisdictions in which the courts have assumed a more active role. See, e.g., State v. Young, 172 P.3d 138, 140 (N.M. 2007) (collecting cases from courts exercising "inherent authority to ensure that indigent defendants receive constitutionally adequate assistance of counsel.").

In summary, I believe that Petitioners' challenge to the funding of legal services for indigent capital defendants in the First Judicial District presents an opportune vehicle for deeper, developed review and explication by this Court about fundamental fairness in the highest-stakes criminal prosecutions. Ideally, the Court's further consideration might also serve as a springboard to a collaborative conversation among the judicial, legislative, and executive branches to institutionalize statewide remedies and facilitate ongoing improvements.[3]

In light of the above, I am unable to support either the majority's decision to dismiss the petition summarily or its pronouncement that "the continued oversight of ...


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