Recent Case Results
In the past month, Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers Zak T. Goldstein, Esq. and Demetra Mehta, Esq. have continued to win outstanding results in the court room. This week, in the case of Commonwealth v. L.W., Attorney Goldstein obtained a full acquittal for L.W. in a case involving Attempted Murder charges. After deliberating for only five hours, the Philadelphia jury of twelve citizens returned an acquittal for L.W. on all charges.
L.W. was charged with Attempted Murder, Aggravated Assault, and illegal possession of a firearm for allegedly shooting the complainant in the head at a block party in Southwest Philadelphia. Prosecutors alleged that L.W. shot the complainant, but the bullet did not penetrate his skull. The complainant jumped up, ran to a nearby police car, and was transported to the hospital. The complainant consistently denied that the defendant had shot him, but shortly after the complainant arrived at the hospital, the complainant’s family members began to tell police that two of them had witnessed the incident. Two of his family members told detectives that they were standing with the complainant at the party when the defendant got mad, pulled a gun, and shot the complainant in the head. A third family member also testified that despite denying it to the police, the complainant told her that the defendant was the shooter. Finally, police detectives testified that when they attempted to arrest the defendant a few days later, he fled from a traffic stop and evaded arrest. They also tried to insist that the complainant was uncooperative and that they believed he was lying to them.
On paper, the case looked extremely difficult for L.W.. The Commonwealth claimed that two eyewitnesses implicated the defendant in the shooting and that a third witness would prove the complainant lied to police about not knowing who shot him. But once the jury was empaneled and the witnesses were under oath and subject to Attorney Goldstein’s withering cross examination, it became clear to the jury that the witnesses were lying. Attorney Goldstein got the witnesses to admit that they fabricated their original statements and had not in fact seen the shooting. The Commonwealth argued that the witnesses were recanting due to the no snitch culture in Philadelphia, but throughout the trial, Attorney Goldstein’s excellent presentation and grasp of the facts demonstrated to the jury that they were just untrustworthy witnesses.
After the Commonwealth saw the credibility of its witnesses destroyed by Attorney Goldstein, prosecutors tried to tip the scales by having multiple police detectives testify to their belief that the defendant was the shooter. Undeterred, Attorney Goldstein was able to highlight to the jury that the detectives based their entire case on hearsay from unreliable witnesses and failed to do any additional investigation. After Attorney Goldstein showed the jury that the Commonwealth had no physical evidence, biased and untrustworthy witnesses with a vendetta against his client, and that they had uncovered no evidence of any motive whatsoever, the jury fully acquitted L.W. of Attempted Murder, Aggravated Assault, and the related gun charges.
Commonwealth v. Z.S. – PCRA Results in Immediate Parole Eligibility for Man Originally Facing Illegal 30-Year-Sentence
We previously wrote about a PCRA Petition which successfully obtained a new Violation of Probation sentencing for client Z.S. Z.S. initially pleaded guilty to Possession with the Intent to Deliver (“PWID”) of a small amount of heroin. Pursuant to the initial guilty plea, Z.S. was sentenced to a short county sentence followed by probation. Z.S. violated the probation when he was convicted of a robbery, and he was sentenced to 7.5 – 20 years for the robbery. When Z.S. appeared for his violation of probation sentencing, the probation judge gave him an unfair sentence of 15-30 years in state prison consecutive to the initial 7.5 – 20 years. In most circumstances, judges have almost unlimited discretion in imposing a new sentence for a violation of probation. However, judges may not consider illegal factors when imposing a sentence.
In this case, the sentencing judge stated on the record that he found the defendant’s expression of remorse to be hollow because the defendant had refused to participate in the violation of probation sentencing by video. Instead, the defendant insisted on being present for this critical hearing. All defendants have a constitutional right to be present in court for sentencing hearings. Therefore, our defense attorneys were able to argue in a Post-Conviction Relief Act Petition that the judge violated Z.S.’s rights by explicitly punishing Z.S. for refusing to participate in the hearing by video and wanting to be present.
After the original VOP judge retired, a new judge was assigned to hear the PCRA Petition. The PCRA judge agreed with our attorneys and vacated the sentence. However, at the new sentencing hearing, the judge had the same authority to impose any type of sentence he saw fit. The judge could have re-sentenced the defendant to the same 15-30 year sentence or reduced the sentence to something substantially less. Due to the persuasive arguments of counsel and the compelling testimony from the defendant and his family members, the judge instead imposed a sentence of 3.5 – 7 years, which the defendant has already served. Accordingly, the defendant will become immediately eligible for parole instead of having to serve another 10 years before reaching parole eligibility.
Commonwealth v. R.P. – Burglary Charges Dismissed at Preliminary Hearing Due to Excessive Hearsay
We have written about the recent updates in Pennsylvania law surrounding the use of hearsay at preliminary hearings. Until recently, the rules have traditionally been that some hearsay is permitted, but preliminary hearings cannot be based entirely on hearsay evidence. In general, ownership and non-permission testimony, which is an element of any theft crime, can typically be shown through the use of hearsay. This allows the Commonwealth to proceed with a preliminary hearing based only on the testimony of a police officer in many theft cases. For example, where a defendant was pulled over in a stolen car, the police officer can testify to pulling the defendant over, and the Commonwealth can then introduce either hearsay testimony through a detective or an ownership and non-permission form (“ONP form”) identifying the owner of the vehicle and stating that the defendant did not have permission to drive the vehicle.
In recent cases, the Superior Court has adopted a permissive attitude towards hearsay and allowed cases to proceed to the Court of Common Pleas based on hearsay alone. The Supreme Court has not yet intervened, dismissing the appeal in Commonwealth v. Ricker as improvidently granted. However, the Supreme Court did recently decide to review this issue again in the case of Commonwealth v. McClelland. The Court has not yet ruled in that case. Nonetheless, many judges and magistrates, particularly in Philadelphia, will not allow the Commonwealth to proceed at a preliminary hearing with only hearsay testimony.
In this case, R.P. was charged with Burglary and related theft charges after police pulled him over as he exited a property that was being renovated. The officer stopped R.P. and his passenger, and the officer testified that he was able to see copper piping in the back of the car that R.P. was driving. The officer testified that R.P. told him that he had been scrapping and that the property from which R.P. exited was often the target of burglary attempts and that it was not well secured. The Commonwealth then introduced an ownership and non permission form stating that R.P. did not have permission to enter the property.
On cross-examination, Attorney Goldstein successfully showed that the officer did not know whether the copper piping actually came from inside the property. The officer had not inspected the premises to see if he could determine from where the pipe had been cut. Further, because the property had been repeatedly burglarized, including earlier that day, the damage to the back door could not be linked to R.P. Accordingly, with no evidence that the piping actually came from that property or that R.P. had actually entered the property, the Philadelphia Municipal Court judge dismissed all of the charges at the end of the preliminary hearing. The judge found that the evidence was insufficient and that any indication on the ONP form that R.P. had entered the property was excessive hearsay. This was particularly because the ONP form was not properly signed by the witness.
Facing Criminal Charges? We Can Help.
The Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers of Goldstein Mehta LLC will fight for your rights at trial or on appeal. Our attorneys have successfully defended thousands of cases in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, and we can help with all types of state and federal charges in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We offer a free criminal defense strategy session to any potential client. Call 267-225-2545 to speak with an experienced and understanding criminal defense attorney today.