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Commonwealth v. Cristina

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

April 14, 2015

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellant
v.
JEFFREY CRISTINA, Appellee

Submitted February 2, 2015

Appeal from the PCRA Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Allegheny County, Entered March 20, 2013, Criminal Division No(s): CP-02-CR-0001478-1976, CP-02-CR-0002462-1976, CP-02-CR-0002464-1976. Before MARIANI, J.

Rebecca G. McBride, Assistant District Attorney, Pittsburgh, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Steven C. Townsend and Diana L. Stavroulakis, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

BEFORE: BENDER, P.J.E., MUNDY and STABILE, JJ.Concurring Statement.

OPINION

Page 420

BENDER, P.J.E.

The Commonwealth appeals from the PCRA[1] court's order granting Jeffrey Cristina a new sentencing hearing. Because the PCRA court lacked jurisdiction to entertain Cristina's untimely PCRA petition, we reverse.

In 1976, Cristina was convicted by a jury of second degree murder for the killing of Frank Slazinski during a home invasion. Cristina, a juvenile when the homicide occurred, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP) on March 29, 1977. On October 5, 1978, our Supreme Court affirmed his judgment of sentence. Commonwealth v. Cristina, 481 Pa. 44, 391 A.2d 1307 (Pa. 1978). The Supreme Court of the United States subsequently denied his Petition for Writ of Certiorari on February 21, 1979. Cristina v. Pennsylvania, 440 U.S. 925, 99 S.Ct. 1255, 59 L.Ed.2d 479 (1979) (table).

On March 15, 1984, Cristina filed a counseled petition under the Post Conviction Hearing Act (PCHA), the statutory predecessor of the PCRA.[2] Cristina's PCHA petition was denied by order of the PCHA court on April 3, 1985. This Court affirmed that order on May 12, 1986, and our Supreme Court denied Cristina's subsequent petition for allowance of appeal on January 7, 1987. Commonwealth v. Cristina, 356 Pa.Super. 615, 512 A.2d 1288 (Pa. Super. 1986) (unpublished memorandum), appeal denied, 513 Pa. 639, 521 A.2d 931 (Pa. 1987) (table).

Cristina filed his second post-conviction petition for collateral relief on June 16, 2010. Counsel was appointed and filed an amended PCRA petition on September 14, 2011. Following a hearing, Cristina's amended petition was denied by order of the PCRA court dated October 28, 2011. Cristina did not appeal from that order.

Cristina filed his third post-conviction petition for collateral relief, the subject of the instant appeal, on July 27, 2012, 32 days after the United States Supreme Court's decision in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 2469, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012) (holding that " the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders" ). On August 14, 2012, current PCRA counsel was appointed. He filed an amended PCRA petition (hereinafter " the Petition" ) on Cristina's behalf on December 3, 2012, alleging that, under the rubric of Miller, Cristina's LWOP sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment. By order dated March 20, 2013, the PCRA court granted the Petition and set a date for resentencing Cristina. The Commonwealth then timely filed the instant appeal, as well as a timely Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) statement. Subsequently, the PCRA court issued its Rule 1925(a) opinion on September 9, 2014. Therein, the PCRA court changed course, recommending that this Court reverse its March 20, 2013 order. PCRA Court Opinion (PCO), 9/9/14, at 2.

The Commonwealth now presents the following question for our review:

Whether the PCRA court erred in granting [Cristina] ...

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