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Commonwealth v. Melvin

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

September 20, 2017


         Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence August 19, 2016 in the Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-43-CR-0001959-2003



          STRASSBURGER, J.

         Jeremy Melvin (Appellant) appeals from the August 19, 2016 judgment of sentence imposed following a resentencing hearing pursuant to Commonwealth v. Batts, 66 A.3d 286 (Pa. 2013) ("Batts I"). We affirm.

On November 10, 2003, [A]ppellant was arrested and charged with homicide, aggravated assault, robbery, escape, and other related offenses involving an incident at the George Junior Republic, a residential treatment facility for at-risk youth located in Grove City, Pennsylvania. [Appellant had been placed at this facility after he was adjudicated delinquent.] Appellant and Anthony Machicote ("Machicote") had conspired to escape the facility by overpowering a guard. During the early morning hours of November 10, 2003, Machicote called the night manager ("the victim") to his room. While the victim spoke with Machicote, [A]ppellant put the victim in a chokehold. Appellant and Machicote secured the victim, put a sock in his mouth, and then tied a sheet around his mouth. After taking the victim's car keys and wallet, they fled from the facility. The victim died as a result of suffocation.
Subsequently, both men surrendered and made inculpatory statements to the police. A hearing was held on August 4, 2004 on [A]ppellant's motion to suppress; and thereafter, the motion was denied. On October 19, 2004, [A]ppellant entered a guilty plea to murder in the second degree, and the remaining charges were nolle prossed pursuant to a plea agreement. On January 7, 2005, [A]ppellant was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole and to pay costs and fines. Appellant did not file post-sentence motions or a direct appeal.
On January 23, 2006, [A]ppellant, acting pro se, filed a timely [Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA)] petition. Stephen G. Delpero, Esq., was appointed as counsel and an amended PCRA petition was filed. A hearing was held on May 30, 2006 before the Honorable Thomas Dobson. Thereafter, the PCRA court denied the petition on May 31, 2006. A timely notice of appeal was filed June 30, 2006, and [A]ppellant was ordered to file a concise statement of matters complained of on appeal. Appellant complied with the court's order.

Commonwealth v. Melvin, 928 A.2d 1126 (Pa. Super. 2007) (unpublished memorandum at 1-2). On April 24, 2007, a panel of this Court affirmed the denial of Appellant's PCRA petition. Id. Appellant did not seek review by our Supreme Court.

         On July 8, 2010, Appellant filed a second PCRA petition, which was denied by the trial court without a hearing. No appeal followed. Appellant's third PCRA petition was filed on May 23, 2012. Shortly thereafter, on June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its opinion in Miller v. Alabama, wherein the Court held that "the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders." 567 U.S. 460, 479 (2012).

On September 30, 2013 [the PCRA c]ourt granted [Appellant's] third PCRA petition on the grounds the sentence was unlawful in light of Miller[.]
The Commonwealth took an appeal from that order.
On October 30, 2012 the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in Commonwealth v. Cunningham, 81 A.3d 1 ([Pa.] 2013) ruled that Miller was not retroactive.
The Commonwealth withdrew its appeal.
On December 18, 2013 the Commonwealth was granted leave to reinstate its appeal.
On July 22, 2014 the Superior Court of Pennsylvania reversed [the PCRA c]ourt's order of September 20, 2013, at [Commonwealth v. Melvin, 105 A.3d 798 (Pa. Super. 2014) (judgment order)].
[Appellant] filed a petition for allowance of appeal. It was denied by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on December 11, 2014. [Commonwealth v. Melvin, 104 A.3d 524 (Pa. 2014)].
On January 25, 2016 the United States Supreme Court in Montgomery v. Louisiana, - U.S. -, [136 S.Ct. 718] (2016), held that Miller [] was retroactive.
On March 18, 2016[, Appellant] filed a motion for leave to amend his PCRA petition in light of the holding in Montgomery.
At a status conference on May 5, 2016 [the PCRA c]ourt granted the request to amend, vacated [Appellant's] sentence and scheduled sentencing[.]
On August 19, 2016[, the PCRA c]ourt sentenced [Appellant] to a term of imprisonment of not less than 30 years nor more than life.
A post-sentence motion was filed. It was denied without a hearing on August 30, 2016. This appeal followed.

PCRA Court Opinion, 11/1/2016, at 3-4 (unnecessary capitalization omitted).

         Both Appellant and the PCRA court have complied with the mandates of Pa.R.A.P. 1925. Appellant raises the following issues for this Court's review, which we have renumbered for ease of disposition.

1. Did the [PCRA] court impose an illegal sentence when it acted without any statutory authority?
2. Did the [PCRA] court impose an illegal sentence by not sentencing [Appellant] for the lesser included charge of third degree murder or the underlying felony of robbery?
3. Did the [PCRA] court err by ruling the ex post facto clause of our Constitutions prevented him from considering current Sentencing Guidelines to an offense from 2003?
4. Did the [PCRA] court abuse its discretion when it denied [Appellant's] request for additional financial aid even though he showed the material's content, its relevance and its cost?
5. Did the [PCRA] court err by ruling that witnesses could give "victim impact" evidence without satisfying the statutory definition of a "victim"[?]
6. Did the [PCRA] court err in allowing character evidence to be admitted through opinion and ...

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