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Commonwealth v. Andrews

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

April 7, 2017

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA Appellee
v.
TERRENCE PATRICK ANDREWS Appellant

         Appeal from the PCRA Order Dated June 2, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-02-CR-0010169-2008

          BEFORE: BENDER, P.J.E., BOWES, J., and SOLANO, J.

          OPINION

          SOLANO, J.

         Appellant Terrence Patrick Andrews appeals from the order denying his petition for relief filed pursuant to the Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), 42 Pa.C.S. §§ 9541-9546. For the reasons that follow, we vacate the PCRA court's order and remand for further proceedings.

         On the evening of May 29, 2008, Appellant repeatedly stabbed his neighbor, Lisa Maas, causing her death. Appellant gave police the following account of the killing, as summarized from our decision addressing Appellant's direct appeal from his conviction, Commonwealth v. Andrews, No. 1113 WDA 2011, at 1-3 (Pa. Super. Feb. 15, 2013) (unpublished memorandum): On the morning of the killing, Maas told Appellant "that he smelled or stunk." Appellant already thought Maas "looked down on him, " and her comment "burned [him] up all day." Appellant decided to kill her. He waited for her to return to her apartment, forced his way into the apartment, and began stabbing her with his scissors. When Maas grabbed a knife to defend herself, Appellant took it from her and used it to stab her. Maas fell to the floor and began to choke on her blood. Appellant put a washcloth in her mouth and secured the washcloth with tape so that he would not hear Maas choking. When the gurgling sounds stopped and Appellant was sure that Maas was dead, he left her apartment.

         In the hallway, Appellant encountered two police officers who were responding to a neighbor's call regarding screams. Appellant, who was covered in blood, told the officers, "I did it, take me to jail." He also asked if Pennsylvania had the death penalty. The officers found a pair of scissors and a kitchen knife in Appellant's pants pocket. Appellant was briefly interviewed at the crime scene, and gave the account summarized above. See Andrews, No. 1113 WDA 2011, at 2-3.

         Appellant was charged with criminal homicide and burglary.[1] He was tried by a jury from March 22-25, 2011. At trial, Appellant offered a diminished capacity defense, presenting expert testimony from Dr. Barbara Ziv that he lacked the ability to form the specific intent to kill.[2] Appellant's counsel attempted to ask Dr. Ziv whether Appellant's mental illness interfered with his "ability to conform his behavior to the law." Appellant's counsel explained that the testimony was relevant to the issue whether Appellant was guilty but mentally ill. The Commonwealth objected, arguing that the jury could not return a verdict of guilty but mentally ill because Appellant had not offered an insanity defense. The trial court sustained the objection. N.T., Trial, at 418-19. Defense counsel later requested a jury instruction regarding the verdict of guilty but mentally ill, which was denied for the same reason. Id. at 556-57. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found Appellant guilty of first-degree murder and burglary. After the verdict was announced, Appellant's counsel moved to have the verdict molded to guilty but mentally ill; that motion was denied. Id. at 667-68.

         The trial court proceeded immediately to sentencing, imposing a sentence of life imprisonment for first-degree murder and a consecutive term of five to ten years' incarceration for burglary. This Court affirmed the judgment of sentence on February 15, 2013, [3] and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied Appellant's petition for allowance of an appeal on October 29, 2013. 78 A.3d 1089 (Pa. 2013).

         On January 8, 2014, Appellant filed his timely pro se PCRA petition. Counsel was appointed and, after being given several extensions, filed an amended PCRA petition on December 29, 2015. The amended petition contained one claim: "Trial counsel gave ineffective assistance when she failed to advise Petitioner to plead guilty but mentally ill to the charge of homicide." Amended Pet. at 3. Appellant contended that had he entered a plea of guilty but mentally ill (rather than unsuccessfully pleading not guilty and going to trial on a diminished capacity defense), he would have been entitled to psychiatric treatment while serving his life sentence after conviction. Id. at 4.

         On May 6, 2016, after reviewing the Amended Petition, the Commonwealth's Answer, and the record, the PCRA court issued a notice of its intent to dismiss Appellant's PCRA petition pursuant to Rule 907 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure. The PCRA court stated:

Petitioner alleges that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to advise Petitioner to plead guilty but mentally ill to the charge of homicide. However, Petitioner was not entitled to plead guilty but mentally ill because he did not raise an insanity defense. Importantly, Petitioner did not raise an insanity defense because he did not meet the legal definition of insanity. As such, the underlying claim is without merit, and the Court finds that there is no merit to Petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claim. See Commonwealth v. Spotz, 47 A.3d 63, 108 n.34 (Pa. 2012) (claims deemed meritless where assertions therein are not explained, developed, or supported by the record factually or legally).

         Rule 907 Notice, 5/6/16. On May 10, 2016, Appellant filed a response to the Rule 907 notice, [4] and on June 2, 2016, the PCRA court issued an order denying Appellant's PCRA petition.

         On June 27, 2016, Appellant filed a timely notice of appeal. On July 14, 2016, the PCRA court issued an order stating: "The Court set forth in its Notice of Intent to Dismiss, dated May 6, 2016, the Court's reasons for denying Appellant's Post Conviction Relief Act Petition. This satisfies the requirement of Pa. R. App. 1925 that the Court set forth its reasons for issuing the Order Appealed from."[5] Appellant raises the following issue, as stated in his brief:

Whether trial counsel gave ineffective assistance when she failed to advise Appellant to plead guilty but mentally ill ...

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