SUBMITTED: June 29, 2017
SUBMITTED: July 13, 2017
from the Order entered on October 12, 2016 in the Court of
Common Pleas, Cumberland County, Criminal Division at No.
from the Order dated January 11, 2017 in the Court of Common
Pleas, Schuylkill County, Criminal Division at No.
SAYLOR, C.J., BAER, TODD, DONOHUE, DOUGHERTY, WECHT, MUNDY,
these consolidated appeals,  we consider whether the
invocation of the United States Supreme Court's decisions
in Johnson v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct.
2551 (2015), and Welch v. United States, ___ U.S.
___, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016), satisfies the newly-recognized
constitutional right exception to the time limit prescribed
by the Post Conviction Relief Act
("PCRA"). See 42 Pa.C.S. §
9545(b)(1) (requiring all petitions for relief to be filed
within one year of the judgment of sentence becoming final);
id. § 9545(b)(1)(iii) (providing an exception
to the time limit upon the recognition of a new
constitutional right that is held to apply retroactively to
petitioners whose judgments of sentence have become final).
We hold that neither Johnson nor Welch
created a constitutional right that applies retroactively to
Mark Spotz. Consequently, the timeliness exception does not
apply. We affirm the PCRA court's conclusion that
Spotz' petitions are untimely, rendering Pennsylvania
courts without jurisdiction to provide relief.
1995, Spotz embarked upon a three-day homicide spree through
York, Schuylkill, Cumberland, and Clearfield Counties. Spotz
killed four people, one of whom was his own brother. In 1996,
Spotz was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to
death in York, Schuylkill, and Cumberland Counties. In
Clearfield County, Spotz was convicted of, inter
alia, voluntary manslaughter for the killing of his
brother, and received a lengthy prison sentence. The lengthy
factual and procedural histories of Spotz' cases have
been detailed in the eight prior opinions that this Court has
issued in relation to Spotz' various appeals and pursuits
of collateral relief. That material is irrelevant to our
disposition of the present appeals, and we will not recount
only two cases at issue presently are Spotz' death
sentences in Cumberland and Schuylkill Counties. In each
case, Spotz filed facially untimely petitions for collateral
relief, in which he maintained that Johnson and
Welch sufficed to satisfy the newly-recognized
constitutional right exception. As discussed in more
detail below, in Johnson, The Supreme Court of the
United States held that the "residual clause" of
the federal Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984 (the
"Act"), 18 U.S.C. § 924 (generally);
id. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii) (residual clause), was
unconstitutionally vague, violating the Due Process Clause of
the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
See Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 2563. The "residual
clause" permitted increased sentences for those
individuals who had committed three or more "violent
felonies, " which included any felony that
"involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk
of physical injury to another." 18 U.S.C. §
924(e)(2)(B)(ii). In the next term, the Court held in
Welch that its decision in Johnson with
regard to the "residual clause" was a new
substantive rule that necessitated its application even to
those whose judgments of sentence had become final.
Welch, 136 S.Ct. at 1265.
to Spotz, the unconstitutional language in the Act's
"residual clause" substantively is identical to the
aggravating circumstance set forth in 42 Pa.C.S. §
9711(d)(9) (the "(d)(9) aggravator"), which
requires proof by the Commonwealth that "[t]he defendant
has a significant history of felony convictions involving the
use or threat of violence to the person." Id.
Because the "residual clause" at issue in
Johnson effectively mirrors the (d)(9) aggravator,
Spotz believes that Johnson and Welch are
sufficient to satisfy the elements of the newly-recognized
constitutional right exception to the PCRA's time bar.
Both PCRA courts rejected this line of argument because,
inter alia, those cases found a federal sentencing
statute unconstitutional, whereas Spotz was sentenced under a
state statute. The courts held that Johnson and
Welch simply did not apply to Spotz, at least for
purposes of the exception being invoked by Spotz.
See Trial Court Opinion-Cumberland Cty., 10/12/2016,
at 3 (explaining that Spotz "was not sentenced under
this federal statute"); Trial Court Opinion-Schuylkill
Cty., 12/13/2016, at 3 (agreeing with the Commonwealth's
argument that Spotz did "not meet the requirements of
the exception, because Johnson and Welch
apply only to a federal statute that has nothing to do with
Spotz' case"); id. at 5 (noting that
"Spotz has also not been sentenced under the federal
statute ruled unconstitutional, nor are the two statutes used
in the same manner"). Accordingly, both courts held that
Spotz' petitions were untimely, that no exception
applied, and that no court had jurisdiction to afford the
relief sought by Spotz. Spotz then appealed both cases to
standard of review for issues arising from the denial of PCRA
relief is well-settled. We must determine whether the PCRA
court's ruling is supported by the record and free of
legal error. Commonwealth v. Washington, 927 A.2d
586, 593 (Pa. 2007).
noted earlier, the two collateral petitions filed by Spotz in
these cases are facially untimely. See supra n.4.
Thus, our sole inquiry is whether Spotz sufficiently has
satisfied a statutory exception so as to overcome the patent
untimeliness of his petitions. For the reasons that follow,
we conclude that he has not done so.
timely, a PCRA petition, including a second or subsequent
petition, must be filed within one year of a judgment of
sentence becoming final. See 42 Pa.C.S. §
9545(b)(1). This time constraint is jurisdictional in nature,
and is not subject to tolling or other equitable
considerations. Commonwealth v. Robinson, 139 A.3d
178, 185 (Pa. 2016) (citing Commonwealth v.
Williams, 105 A.3d 1234, 1239 (Pa. 2014);
Commonwealth v. Peterkin, 722 A.2d 638, 641 (Pa.
1998)). The statutory time bar "implicates the
court's very power to adjudicate a controversy and
prohibits a court from extending filing periods except as the
statute permits." Robinson, 139 A.3d at 185
(citing Commonwealth v. Fahy, 737 A.2d 214, 222 (Pa.
1999)). Thus, the jurisdictional time bar only can be
overcome by satisfaction of one of the three statutory
exceptions codified at 42 Pa.C.S. § 9545(b)(1)(i)-(iii).
The PCRA petitioner bears the burden of proving the
applicability of one of the exceptions. Commonwealth v.
Edmiston, 65 A.3d 339, 346 (Pa. 2013).
the newly-recognized constitutional right exception is
relevant here. We examined the terms of this
exception, and a petitioner's burden thereunder, in
Commonwealth v. Abdul-Salaam, 812 A.2d 497 (Pa.
Subsection (iii) of Section 9545[(b)(1)] has two
requirements. First, it provides that the right asserted is a
constitutional right that was recognized by the Supreme Court
of the United States or this [C]ourt after the time provided
in this section. Second, it provides that the right "has
been held" by "that court" to apply
retroactively. Thus, a petitioner must prove that there is a
"new" constitutional right and that the right
"has been held" by that court to apply
retroactively. The language "has been held" is in
the past tense. These words mean that the action has already
occurred, i.e., "that court" has already
held the new constitutional right to be retroactive to cases
on collateral review. By employing the past tense in ...