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Commonwealth v. Martz

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

June 24, 2015

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellant
v.
DERECK MICHAEL MARTZ, Appellee

Argued March 3, 2015

Appeal from the Order Entered August 11, 2014. In the Court of Common Pleas of Montour County. Criminal Division at No(s): CP-47-CR-0000029-2014, Before NORTON, J.

For Commonwealth, APPELLANT: Rebecca L. Warren, District Attorney, Danville.

Dereck Michael Martz, APPELLEE: pro se.

BEFORE: SHOGAN, WECHT, and STRASSBURGER,[*] JJ.

OPINION

SHOGAN, J.:

Appellant, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, appeals from the order[1] entered on August 11, 2014, applying the infancy defense and dismissing those counts of the amended information (" Information" ) that encompass acts occurring prior to April 2, 1999, when Appellee, Dereck Michael Martz, reached fourteen years of age. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand.

Appellee was born on April 2, 1985. M.S. (" the victim" ) was born in April of 1990. On September 23, 2013, M.S., who was then twenty-three years old, reported to Danville Police that he had been sexually abused as a child on an ongoing basis by Appellee, who was then twenty-eight years old. N.T., 7/30/14, at 3-6, 25. On January 9, 2014, Appellee was charged in criminal court[2] with twelve counts of each of the following crimes: rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault of a child, indecent assault of a person less than thirteen years of age, and one count of terroristic threats, totaling sixty-one charges. At the preliminary hearing on January 27, 2014, the sixty sexual assault counts were held for trial, and the single count of terroristic threats was dismissed.

Appellee filed a Motion for Bill of Particulars on March 12, 2014, seeking identification of the dates, times, and locations of the sexual assaults. Request for Bill of Particulars, 3/12/14. He also filed a Motion for Bill of Particulars or Other Appropriate Relief on March 24, 2014. In that motion, Appellee sought dismissal of the Information due to the alleged insufficiency of its allegations and asserted that the Commonwealth did not adequately specify the dates and circumstances of the charges against him, thereby precluding him from formulating defenses. Motion for Bill of Particulars or Other Appropriate Relief, 3/24/14, at unnumbered 2. On April 3, 2014, Appellee filed an omnibus pretrial motion seeking, inter alia, dismissal based on prejudicial delay.

On May 9, 2014, due to Appellee's desire to proceed pro se, the trial court held a colloquy pursuant to Commonwealth v. Grazier, 552 Pa. 9, 713 A.2d 81 (Pa. 1998), and Pa.R.Crim.P. 121. In an order dated May 9, 2014, and filed May 22, 2014, the trial court permitted Appellee to proceed pro se. Order, 5/22/14, at 1. The trial court also held a hearing on Appellee's other pretrial motions on May 9, 2014, as well as June 9, 2014. On June 27, 2014, the Commonwealth filed an Amended Information containing more specific and detailed allegations. Therein, the assaults were alleged to have begun in 1996 and continued until 2002. The hearing on Appellee's pretrial motions was resumed on July 9, 2014. At the July 9, 2014 hearing, Appellee verbally raised an " infancy defense" [3] in which he sought dismissal of certain counts based on his claim that because he was a child between the ages of eleven and seventeen when the alleged abuse occurred, he lacked capacity to commit the crimes.[4] In an order dated July 15, 2014, and filed July 18, 2014, the trial court scheduled a supplemental hearing on the pretrial motions. That hearing was held on July 30, 2014.

On August 11, 2014, the trial court entered the following order:

AND NOW, to wit, on this 11th day of August, 2014, on the basis of the reasons set forth in the foregoing Opinion, it is ORDERED as follows:
1. The Defendant's Motion for Bill of Particulars or Other Appropriate Relief is DENIED;
2. The Defendant's oral Motion to Dismiss based upon the Infancy Defense is GRANTED IN PART. Counts 1-9, 13-21, 25-33, 37-45, 49-57 shall be dismissed to the extent that they encompass acts occurring prior to April 2, 1999 when the Defendant reached the age of 14. Those counts shall continue to be subject to prosecution in the present case as to time periods from and after April 2, 1999; and
3. The Defendant's Motion to Dismiss based upon Prejudicial Delay, contained in the Omnibus Motion filed on April 3, 2014, is DENIED.

Opinion and Order, 8/11/14, at 9.

In the opinion accompanying the August 11, 2014 order, the trial court held there is a rebuttable presumption that Appellee did not have the capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct through the age of fourteen. Opinion and Order, 8/11/14, at 3.[5] It found that the Commonwealth had not rebutted that presumption and, accordingly, dismissed counts based on allegations of acts occurring prior to April 2, 1999, which was when Appellee reached the age of fourteen. Id.

Appellee filed a Motion for Appointment of Standby Counsel on September 8, 2014, which the trial court granted on September 16, 2014. The Commonwealth filed its notice of appeal on September 9, 2014, certifying that dismissal of the charges substantially handicapped or terminated its case pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 311(d). Standby counsel withdrew on September 26, 2014, due to a conflict of interest. Pursuant to the trial court's order of September 16, 2014, the Commonwealth filed a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal on October 9, 2014. In an order dated October 15, 2014, the trial court appointed new standby counsel for Appellee.[6] In an order filed on October 16, 2014, and ...


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