WHAT IS A LIFE SENTENCE IN PENNSYLVANIA? - PART 3

 

[EDITOR'S NOTE:  This page was previously entitled "WHAT IS A LIFE SENTENCE IN PENNSYLVANIA PART-2?"  However, due to the additon of new information to this page, the title has been updated accordingly. Moreover, due to the U.S. SUPREME COURT ruling in Evan Miller v. Alabama that it is a violation to the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to sentence juvenile offenders to life without the possibility of parole, as well as the newly approved Senate Bill 850 (Session of 2013) which became Act 204 of 2012, this page also includes updated information concerning these historic events.]

     As of today, there are approximately 5,000 prisoners across the state of Pennsylvania currently serving one or multiple Life Sentences. However, the most important question that needs to be addressed is:

     What is a Life Sentence in Pennsylvania?...


     For most of Pennsylvania's tax-paying citizens, as well as the overwhelming majority of Pennsylvania's state prisoners, a Life Sentence in Pennsylvania means the prisoner must remain incarcerated "until he or she dies". However, this widespread misconception is merely the result of widespread ignorance of the law. In fact, when questioning the Legislature's intent for what the length of a Life Sentence should be, one must get their answer from the statutory provisions of Pennsylvania's Statutory Law, and not from the miseducated opinions of widespread 'hearsay'. But before we get into the necessary Statutory Law concerning this subject you must first understand Pennsylvania's Tripartite System of Government so that you can understand the extreme importance of 'Legislative Intent'...


     "In Pennsylvania we embraced the concept of the tripartite government with three equal, separate and autonomous branches in an effort to prevent governmental power from becoming concentrated into a single body. It was believed that each branch would act as a check on the other and by this diffusion of power prevent tyranny where the rights of the individual citizen would be ignored."
        

    -Com. V. Sutley, 474 Pa. 256, 378 A.2d 780 (1977)


Pennsylvania's "Tripartite System of Government" consists of three branches:

1. Legislative Branch
     This branch consist of all employees/staff of the General Assembly (the Senate and    House of Representatives) and is responsible for voting on, passing, amending, and repealing Pennsylvania's laws.

2. Judiciary Branch
    This branch consist of all employees/staff of Pennsylvania's Judiciary System (the Courts of Common Pleas, the Commonwealth Court, the Superior court, and the Supreme Court) and is responsible for upholding the laws that the Legislative Branch have already passed.

3. Executive Branch
    This branch consists of various executive positions throughout Pennsylvania's Commonwealth including (but not limited to) the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Inspector General, Attorney General, Auditor General, State Treasurer, Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Officials, Board of Pardons members, Commutation Board members, Board of Probation and Parole members, and the Department of Correction staff/employees... Most of these executive positions have no direct contact or personal interest with Pennsylvania's state prisoners, however, the executive positions that do (i.e.: The Department of Corrections, Board of Probation and Parole, Commutation Board, Board of Pardons, Governor, and Attorney General) are all responsible for keeping the custody of Pennsylvania's state prisoners, and thus are only responsible for upholding, pardoning, commuting, or paroling the sentence that has been imposed (in court) by the Judiciary Branch.

With that being said, you must understand that the Judiciary Branch (the Courts) are merely responsible for upholding the laws that the Legislative Branch have already passed. The courts must not deviate from existing law. If the Courts do deviate from existing law, that constitutes an 'Encroachment of government powers' because the Judiciary Branch of government is going against the intent of the Legislative Branch.


BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY, Eighth edition defines "Legislative Intent" as: "The design or plan that the legislature had at the time of enacting a statute."



Some examples of what the "Legislative Intent" is for a 'Life' sentence in Pennsylvania are:

    "No sentence shall be imposed under this section of which the      minimum is longer than one-half the maximum, or when the      maximum is life imprisonment, longer than ten (10) years."
     

      - Senate Bill 38, Session of 1967, Section 603
         (also known as the Proposed Crimes Code)

     "A person who has been convicted of a felony may be sentenced to imprisonment as follows: In the case of a felony of the first degree, for a term which shall be fixed by the court at not more than 20 years."


  - Act of 1972, December 6, P.L. 1482, No. 334, Section 1103 (1)
               (also known as the "Crimes Code")

And even the American Bar Association recognizes that a "Life Sentence" (no matter in what state) should be construed as a term if imprisonment that has a designated number of years...

      "Minimum Sentences as long as ten or fifteen years should be strictly confined to life sentences. Longer minimum sentences should not be authorized."


 - ABA Project, Standards Relating to Sentencing Alternatives and
         Procedures, Section 3.2 - Minimum term (c) (ii)

Consequently, whenever a Defendant get's sentenced to "Life" by Pennsylvania's Judiciary Branch of government (the Judge), the Judiciary Branch must follow specific laws that have already been passed by the General Assembly (Legislative Branch) to impose such a sentence. Contrary to what you have been told or have chosen to believe, a "Life Sentence" in Pennsylvania does not mean 'Stay in prison until you die'... However, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania cannot disclose such monumental information to the public because it would cause 'instant chaos' amongst prisoners and Pennsylvania's tax-paying citizens who have incarcerated loved ones serving such sentences. The truth of the matter is that there are approximately 10 statutes that govern the different types of "Life Sentences" a judge may legally impose throughout Pennsylvania. Out of those 10 "Life Sentence" statutes, only 4 of those statutes actually authorize a punishment of "Life Without Parole" !... The problem, however, can be summarized within 3 critical points:

 

1) The legislature (General Assembly) has never officially defined (through statute) exactly how many years a term of "Life Imprisonment" is ;

 

2) The legislature (General Assembly) has never specified what paroling entity (other than the Pa. Board of Probation and Parole) has jurisdiction over terms of "Life Imprisonment" ; and

 

3) Judges in Pennsylvania purposely pronounce "Life Without the Possibility of Parole" for every type of "Life Sentence" so that Defendants cannot determine the differences between the different types of "Life Sentences".

 

 

Over the last 4 decades or so, countless Pennsylvania state prisoners have been incarcerated under "Life Sentences" for well over the statutory maximum designated for their crime. Furthermore, numerous state prisoners have died while serving "Life Sentences" without ever realizing the truth about their illegal sentences. If such information were to ever reach the mass public, there would be countless lawsuits filed against the Commonwealth to such an extent that Pennsylvania's Judiciary System would literally be shut down!


     One extremely important question almost always gets overlooked when dealing with the issue of a "Life" sentence. However, overlooking such a question could prove to be disastrous for the defendant...

     Does the "Life" sentence have statutory authorization ???

     In order for a "Life" sentence to have 'Statutory Authorization', that "Life" sentence has to be imposed under a specific statute passed by the General Assembly. There are numerous statutes enacted by Pennsylvania's General Assembly that give the sentencing Judge the authority to impose a "Life" sentence upon a criminal defendant. However, that Judge must use one of those specific statues when imposing such a sentence, or that sentence is illegal. Judges do not posses the authority to impose a "Life" sentence that is not in accordance with an existing law, no matter what the Judge's personal opinions or personal disposition is toward the criminal defendant. Such an act would equate to a Judge 'creating new laws in the courtroom' to validate imposing "Life" upon a defendant who cannot lawfully receive such a sentence.

        "If a court does not possess statutory authorization to impose a particular sentence,then the sentence is illegal and must be vacated."

         - Com. v. Johnson, 873 A.2d 704 (Pa.super. 2005); and                 
         - Com. v. Wilson, 2010 WL 5100593 (Pa.super. 2010)

 

 

[EDITOR'S NOTE: For an in-depth analysis on "Statutory Authorization In Pennsylvania", see pages 3-12 of the PAsentencing.com FREEDOM PACKET, 1st Edition. ]

     Once you understand the above matter of 'Statutory Authorization' in its proper context, the next matter of importance you need to understand is that in order for you to determine if a "Life" sentence has statutory authorization, you need to get a copy of a very important document called a written 'Judgment of Sentence' order.



The Importance of the "Judgment of Sentence"

     The "Judgment of Sentence", also referred to as the "Sentencing order", is the written judgment signed by the Judge and entered upon the record of the Courts. This document is needed to prove that a criminal defendant was ever sentenced for their alleged crime, and nothing the Judge verbally says on the record in open court (while pronouncing the sentence) can take the place of or supercede this written order. Without this document, no Pennsylvania state prisoner can lawfully be incarcerated. Furthermore, if this written document does not possess statutory authorization, then the defendant automatically has grounds for his/her sentence to be vacated for re-sentencing purposes.

     "An oral pronouncement of a sentence is not a 'sentence imposed' until incorporated in a signed written judgment."  - Com. v. Hodge,  369 A.2d 815, 246 Pa.Super. 71 (Pa.Super.1977);  "The sentencing order take precedence over the sentencing transcripts where there is a discrepancy between the sentence as written and as orally pronounced."  - Com. v. Wilson,  2010 WL 5100593 (Pa.Super. 2010);  "Oral statements made by the judge in passing sentence, but not incorporation in the written sentence signed by the sentencing judge, are not part of the judgment of sentence."  - Com. v. Quinlan ,  639 A.2d 1235, 433 Pa.Super, 111 (Pa.Super. 1994) ;   " 'Sentence' is that which is entered on the records of the court and does not include oral statements made by the judge in passing sentence."  - Com. v. Foster,  324 A.2d 538, 229 Pa.Super. 269 (Pa.Super. 1974) ;  "It is not within the power of the judge by instructions to clerk to make some other medium the authentic organ of his will."  - Hill v. U.S. ex rel Wampler, 56 S.Ct. 760, 298 U.S. 460 (U.S.Pa. 1936)

    
     Once you understand the importance of the written 'Judgment of Sentence' order, the next matter you need to focus on is: How do I get a copy of the written 'Judgment of Sentence' Order?...

     There are numerous ways in which you can go about obtaining a copy of the written 'Judgment of Sentence' order. However, for the sake of simplicity, the following two methods are being provided.

                1. Contact Your Clerk of Courts
                    You should contact the Clerk of Courts from the county where your case occurred, or (if possible) have someone physically visit that Clerk of Courts office to obtain a copy of the document you desire. The written 'Judgment of Sentence' order is public information, and thus accessible to the Defendant and/or Defendant's loved ones. Furthermore, Pa.R.Crim.P. Rule 114(A)(1) states:

                " All orders and court notices promptly shall be
                  transmitted to the clerk of courts' office for filing.
                  Upon receipt in the clerk of courts' office, the
                  order or court notice promptly shall be time stamped
                  with the date of receipt."

     As a result, the written 'Judgment of Sentence' order should be filed within the Defendant's criminal case file.


                 2. Proceed Under The "Right-To-Know-Law"
                     If you are unable to obtain a copy of the written 'Judgment of Sentence' order (for whatever reason), it may be necessary for you to continue your search by proceeding under the "Right-to-Know-Law". The Right-To-Know-Law, initially enacted by legislature through the Act of 1957, June 21, P.L. 390, No. 212 was later repealed by the Act of 2008, February 14, P.L. 6, No. 3, and provides the criteria and proper procedures for gaining access to public information. To obtain a copy of the document you seek, you must complete a 'Standard Right-To-Know Request Form' and mail it to the following address:



                       Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
                                            Right-To-Know Office
                                         1920 Technology Parkway
                                         Mechanicsburg, PA 17050


If you need a copy of the 'Standard Right-To-Know Request Form', Click here


     Once you mail your request for a copy of the written 'Judgment of Sentence' order, you will receive a formal response letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Right-to-Know Office within 5-7 days. In that response letter, the Office Of Open Records Agent will acknowledge that the Right-To-Know Office has received your request, and that the Right-To-Know Office will need an extension of thirty (30) days to locate and retrieve a copy of the requested document from a "remote location". Rest assured that this is merely standard procedure (believe me, I've exhausted this remedy numerous times).

     Before the expiration of said 30-day extension, you will receive another formal response letter from the Right-To-Know Office. This second response however, will either include a copy of the written 'Judgment of Sentence' order you requested, or there will be a formal letter from the Agency stating "the record(s) you requested do not exist."

     If you receive notice that the written 'Judgment of Sentence' order "does not exist", then your next step is to appeal the Right-to-Know Office's denial of requested information. Such an appeal should be mailed to the following address:

 

 

   Pennsylvania Office of Open Records

       Commonwealth Keystone Building

                   400 North Street

                       4th Floor

               Harrisburg, PA 17120



[***Editor's Note.***  Be aware that you are not appealing the Department of Corrections Right-To-Know Office's denial trying to actually "win" the Appeal. You are merely appealing the denial of requested information to the Pennsylvania Office of Open records so that the necessary person(s) will be compelled to provide an Affidavit/Attestation under the penalty of perjury that the requested 'Judgment of Sentence' order does not exist. This Affidavit/Attestation will serve as your proof that there is no written Judgment of Sentence order for the imposed "Life" sentence, and this proof can be used as an "Exhibit" in future legal filings and court proceedings.]

To see a Right-To-Know Law Appeal form, click here.

 
     However, if the Right-To-Know Office does provide you with a copy of the written Judgment of Sentence order, your next step will be to 'examine' the document to see if it possesses 'Statutory Authorization'. (A written Judgment of Sentence order can only possess statutory authorization if the Judge writes what statute the sentence is being imposed pursuant to.)

     Many of you reading this may not understand what an actual written 'Judgement of Sentence' order looks like... if that's the case, to view a sample 'Judgment of Sentence' order Click Here


     Now that we've covered (among many other things) the importance of 'Legislative Intent', 'Statutory Authorization', and how to get a copy of the written 'Judgment of Sentence' order, the only thing left to discuss is:

- What statutes provide statutory authorization for a "Life" sentence ?


     As far as what statutes can and cannot provide statutory authorization for a judge to impose a "LIFE" sentence in Pennsylvania, it all depends on when the criminal offense was committed. For a thorough explanation, read below:


 [ Editors Note: The following statutory information is explained in chronological order pertaining to the year of legislative enactment for each statute mentioned. However, PAsentencing.com will not be providing information on any statute enacted or repealed before 1939, due to the fact that any defendant charged before 1939 would most likely be deceased today]

     18 P.S. Section 701. Murder of the First and Second Degree
     This statute was enacted by the Penal Code of 1939, June 24, P.L. 872, No. 375, and became effective later that year. This statute provided the statutory authorization for a judge to impose a "LIFE" sentence upon a convicted criminal defendant for a Murder of the First Degree that occurred between 1939 and June 5, 1973, or for a second Murder of the Second Degree that occurred within the same time frame. It should be duly noted that this statute was repealed pursuant to Com. v. Bradley, 295 A.2d 842, 449 Pa. 19 (1972), for being in violation of the U.S. Constitution, Amendments 8 and 14. As a result, if you received a "LIFE" sentence for a crime that was committed on or before June 5, 1973, you should immediately file a (state) Habeas Corpus claiming unlawful restraint because the statute that once authorized your sentence is no longer capable of doing so. Reference the following information for confirmation:

Com. v. Bradley, 295 A.2d 842, 449 Pa. 19 (1972;)
Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, 92 S.Ct. 2726, 33 L.Ed.2d 346 (1972);
United States Constitution, Amendments 8 and 14

 

 

[EDITOR'S NOTE: For a more in-depth analysis on this statute, become a Gold Club Member to receive information on "THE TRUTH ABOUT FIRST DEGREE MURDER IN PENNSYLVANIA",  and "THE TRUTH ABOUT SECOND DEGREE MURDER IN PENNSYLVANIA" in our PAsentencing.com FREEDOM PACKET, 1st Edition.]


     18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102. Sentence for murder
     This statute was originally enacted by the passing of the "Crimes Code" in the Act of 1972, December 6, P.L. 1482, No. 334 and became effective June 6, 1973. This statute has been amended many times since it became effective in 1973, receiving additional subsections such as (a), (b), (c), and (d), as well as receiving changes to it's statute name and the types of offenses that are now included in the aforementioned subsections. However, this statute was deemed unconstitutional pursuant to Com. v. Mckenna, 383 A.2d 174, 476 Pa. 428 (Pa. 1978). As a result, no one sentenced to "Life" after January 26, 1978 will have this statute on their written Judgment of Sentence orders because judges cannot put an unconstitutional statute on the order to justify/authorize the sentence they impose!... But beware, because the judge may in fact state (in an Opinion or formal letter for example) state that this statute was used to impose the "LIFE" sentence. If that happens, use your actual written Judgment of Sentence order to prove him wrong. Remember, only that written Judgement of Sentence order can stand as proof of what sentence was imposed and what the sentence is pursuant to. Not even the judge who sentenced you can later try to "explain" what statute he meant to use. The bottom line is: If the written Judgment of Sentence order does not mention what statute was used to impose the sentence, then no statute was used and you have been civilly committed into confinement due to the judge's "oral pronouncement" and not the law, which is illegal!


     Immediately after the decision in Com. v. McKenna (supra), which was decided on January 26, 1978, there was supposed to be new legislation from the General Assembly to amend or repeal 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102 (a) because it had been deemed unconstitutional. However, that was never done and consequently 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102 became a "dead letter" statute.

   BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY, Eighth Edition defines "dead letter" as:


A law or practice that, although not formally abolished, is no longer used, observed, or enforced.


     With that being said, 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102 (in its entirety) is currently a "dead letter" statute because although it was never formally abolished (repealed by the General Assembly), it is no longer enforced. (It can only be enforced by being placed within the written Judgment of Sentence order's decree.) This is also extremely important to any criminal defendant sentenced for 3rd Degree Murder (18Pa.C.S. Section 1102(d) ), Conspiracy to Commit Murder (18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102(c) ), Solicitation to Commit Murder (18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102(c) ), and Criminal Attempt to Commit Murder (18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102(c) ).


     Moreover, 18 Pa. C.S. Section 1102(A) can only be implied to have been imposed in accordance with 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1311 or 42 Pa.C.S. Section 9711, which mandates that a jury must weigh aggravating and mitigating circumstances after a guilty verdict in a 1st Degree Murder "Capital Case". (*** It must be duly noted that not all 1st Degree Murder convictions are the result of a "Capital Case". A "Capital Case" is a case where the defendant faces a possibility of execution via Death Penalty.***) As a result, if you've been sentenced to "Life Imprisonment" after a 1st Degree Murder guilty verdict, but the trial was not a "Capital Case", 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102(A) cannot authorize such a sentence!!!

 

 

Futhermore, the statutory provisions of this statute only specify a sentence of "Life Imprisonment" not "Life Without The Possibility of Parole". THERE IS A DIFFERENCE! If the Judge pronounced this language in your sentence, you may have an illegal sentencing condition. 

 

[EDITOR'S NOTE: For a more in-depth analysis on this statute, become a Gold Club Member to receive information on "THE TRUTH ABOUT FIRST DEGREE MURDER IN PENNSYLVANIA",   "THE TRUTH ABOUT SECOND DEGREE MURDER IN PENNSYLVANIA", and "THE TRUTH ABOUT THIRD DEGREE MURDER IN PENNSYLVANIA"  in our PAsentencing.com FREEDOM PACKET, 1st Edition.]

 

 

     18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102.1 Sentence of persons under the age

      of 18 for murder, murder of an unbord child and murder of a

      law enforcement officer. 

      This statute was originally enacted with the passing of Senate Bill 850 (Session of 2012) which became Act 204 (of 2012). This statute only pertains to juvenile offenders convicted of 18 Pa.C.S. Section 2502(a) Murder in the first degree, or 18 Pa.C.S. Section 2502(b) Murder in the second degree after June 24, 2012. This statute specifies a minimum sentence of 35 years -to- Life  for a First Degree muder conviction by a juvenile 15-17 years of age; and a minimum sentence of 20 years -to- Life for a Second Degree Murder conviction by a juvenile 14 years of age or younger. 

     Although this statute presents the facade of providing parole eligibility to juvenile offenders convicted of 1st or 2nd Degree Murder, IT DOES NOT!... This is due to the fact that Senate Bill 850 (Session of 2012) never amended the necessary parole statutes in order to lawfully provide the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole with jurisdiction over terms of life imprisonment! In order to properly provide the Board of Parole with jurisdiction over terms of life imprisonment, many different provisions within numerous statutes would have to be amended. However, Senate Bill 850 (Session of 2012) never made any such statutory amendments. Instead, Senate Bill 850 (Session of 2012) focused primarily on creating this statute (18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102.1), which focuses heavily on the way a sentence is judicially-imposed at the time of sentencing. THIS IS A HUGE MISTAKE!!! The courts will tell you that Senate Bill 850 (Session of 2012) which was approved and enacted into Act 204 (of 2012) authorizes minumum sentence of: 35 years -to- life, 30 years -to-life, 25 years -to- life, and 20 years -to- life. However, this presents a legal impossibility because a court cannot impose 2 different terms as 1 minimum sentence!  For example, 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102.1 (a)(1) authorizes:

"the minimum of which shall be at least 25 years to life..."

 

The fact of the matter is that the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was compelled to enact legislation in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Evan Miller v. Alabama. However, the General Assembly enacted improper and inadequate sentencing legislation due to it's ambition to keep life imprisonment in the provisions. Nevertheless, when 2 different terms are imposed by a judge at sentencing, the minimum term is only "administrative notice" to the parole board while the maximum term is in fact the sentence:

 

"The word sentence when unmodified by the words maximum or minimum necessarily refers only to the maximum sentence for that is the legal sentence. The minimum sentence is merely an administrative notice by the courts to the parole board that the question of parole might, at its expiration, properly be considered."

 

Com. v. Kalck, 239 Pa. 533, 87 A. 61; also see

Com. ex rel. Lycett v. Ashe, 145 Pa.Super. 26, 

 20 A.2d 881; also see

 Com v. Glover, 156 A.2d114, 397 Pa. 543

 

In other words, any sentence imposed under 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102.1 is still a Life Sentence, regardless of any minimum term imposed with it. This fact is being pointed out merely to illustrate the fact that the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole is not authorized by law to exercise jurisdiction over terms of life imprisonment, contrary to what you may have been told. (See: 61 Pa.C.S. Section 6137 Parole Power.)

 

 

[EDITOR'S NOTE: PAsentencing.com currently has a legislative bill drafted that addresses all of the problems created by Senate Bill 850 (Session of 2012) and proposes parole eligibility for all life sentences after 25 years. To support the proposal of this legislative bill by signing our online petition, go to the PAsentencing.com homepage and click on the "Parole Eligibility For Life Sentences After 25 Years" option.] 

 



     18 Pa.C.S. Section 3301. Arson and related offenses
     This statute was enacted by the passing of the "Crimes Code" in the Act of 1972, December 6, P.L. 1482, No. 334, and became effective June 6, 1973, however, it must be duly noted that this statute did not authorize a "LIFE" sentence until it was amended in the Act of 1982, December 7, P.L. 811, No. 227, which became effective February 7, 1983. Consequently, anyone found guilty of committing arson that results in the death of another person can receive a "LIFE" sentence pursuant to this statute if the offense occurred on or after February 7, 1983. However, this statute must be mentioned on the written Judgment of Sentence order to provide the necessary statutory authorization that the judge needs to impose the sentence.

 

[EDITOR'S NOTE: For a more in-depth analysis on this statute, become a Gold Status Club member to receive our PAsentencing.com FREEDOM PACKET, 1st Edition.]



     18 Pa.C.S. Section 2501. Criminal Homicide
     This statute was enacted with the passing of the "Crimes Code" in the Act of 1972, December 6, P.L. 1482, No. 334 and it became effective June 6, 1973. Any criminal defendant who was found guilty of a Murder or Manslaughter charge for an offense that occurred on or after June 6, 1973, was most likely originally indicted/charged with "Criminal Homicide" under this statute. This statute is wide-ranging and encompassing in the fact that 18 Pa.C.S. Section 2501. Criminal Homicide can become one of numerous other charges/statutes upon the conclusion of the trial (e.g.: First Degree Murder, Second Degree Murder, Third Degree Murder, Voluntary Manslaughter, Involuntary Manslaughter, etc...) However, it must be acknowledged and understood that this statue does not provide statutory authorization for a "LIFE" sentence ! If you reference this statute and read the language that pertains to it, you'll realize that the language only defines the offense of "Criminal Homicide" and does not authorize any punishment/sentence for this crime. This information is especially important to know because 18 Pa.C.S. Section 2501 is one of the few statutes that the judges will put on the written Judgment of Sentence order. But this statute cannot authorize a "LIFE" sentence...





     18 Pa.C.S. Section 2502(a). Murder of the First Degree
     This statute was enacted with the passing of the "Crimes Code" in the Act of 1972, December 6, P.L. 1482, No. 334 and became effective June 6th, 1973. Any criminal defendant who was found guilty of Murder of the First Degree for an offense that occurred on or after June 6, 1973, was found guilty of this statute/charge. However, it must be acknowledged and understood that this statute does not provide statutory authorization for a "LIFE" sentence! If you reference this statute and read the language that pertains to it, you'll realize that the language only defines the offense of "Murder of the First Degree" and does not authorize any punishment/sentence for this crime. This information is especially important to know because 18 Pa.C.S. Section 2502(a) is one of the few statutes that judges actually will put in the written Judgment of Sentence order. But this statute cannot authorize a "LIFE" sentence...

 

[EDITOR'S NOTE: For a more in-depth analysis on this statute, become a Gold Club Member to receive information on "THE TRUTH ABOUT FIRST DEGREE MURDER IN PENNSYLVANIA" in our PAsentencing.com FREEDOM PACKET, 1st Edition.]

 



     18 Pa.C.S. Section 2502(b) Murder of the Second Degree

     This statute was enacted with the passing of the "Crimes Code" in the Act of 1972, December 6, P.L. 1482, No. 334 and became effective June 6, 1973. Any criminal defendant who was found guilty of Murder of the Second Degree for an offense that occurred or or after June 6, 1973, was found guilty of this statute/charge. However, it must be acknowledged and understood that this statute does not provide statutory authorization for a "LIFE" sentence! If you reference this statute and read the language that pertains to it, you'll realize that the language only defines the offense of "Murder of the Second Degree" and does not authorize any punishment/sentence for this crime. This information is especially important to know because 18 Pa.C.S. Section 2502(b) is one of the few statutes that judges actually will put in the written Judgment of Sentence order. But this statute cannot authorize a "LIFE" sentence...   


[EDITOR'S NOTE: For a more in-depth analysis on this statute, become a Gold Club Member to receive information on  "THE TRUTH ABOUT SECOND DEGREE MURDER IN PENNSYLVANIA" in our PAsentencing.com FREEDOM PACKET, 1st Edition.]

 

 



     18 Pa.C.S. Section 1311. Sentencing For Murder, or
     18 Pa.C.S. Section 1311. Sentencing Procedure For

      Murder of the First Degree, or  42 Pa.C.S. Section 9711.

      Sentencing Procedure For Murder of the First Degree.
     The above three statutes are the same statutes, but they merely represent different periods of time chronologically. This statute was originally introduced as Section 1311.Sentencing For Murder under Chapter 13 of the  Act of 1974, March 26, P.L. 213, No. 46 and became effective immediately. Then, the statute was amended in the Act of 1978, September 13, P.L. 756. No. 141 and the name of the statute became Section 1311 - Sentencing Procedure For Murder of the First Degree. Then, the entire statute was transferred out of Title 18 and into Title 42 in the Act of 1980, October 5, P.L. 693, No. 142 when the statute became Section 9711 - Sentencing Procedure For Murder of the First Degree (Which the statute is currently named as of today).
     Nevertheless, if this statute is mentioned on your written Judgment of Sentence order, there are a variety of avenues to relief that exist - all depending upon when your offense was committed or the particular circumstances of your situation.


     First and foremost, if there was never an "additional" deliberation phase held by the jury after the guilty verdict was pronounced to determine whether you would be sentenced to the "DEATH PENALTY" or "LIFE", then you have a serious issue to raise on appeal. Understand that this statute (18 Pa.C.S. Section 1311; or 42 Pa.C.S. Section 9711 depending on when your offense occurred) is restricted to Capital Cases only (a case where the defendant faces the possibility of execution via Death Penalty). As a result, if this statute is on your written Judgment of Sentence order, you had to have been afforded that "additional" sentencing hearing for the jury to deliberate such a crucial decision, unless of course you waived that right and chose to allow the judge to make that determination at that "additional" sentencing hearing.


     Secondly, if this statute is on your written Judgment of Sentence order and your offense occurred anytime between September 13, 1978 and May 8, 1995, you have an illegal sentence and serious merit to file an appeal. The reason is because 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102(a) has directed the sentencing courts to sentence a First Degree Murder defendant pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1311(d) from March 26, 1974 through May 8, 1995, which was the last day before 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102(a) was legislatively corrected   [ see: Act of 1974, March 26, P.L. 213, No. 46, Section 1102(a). which became effective immediately and the Act of 1995, March 9, P.L. 964, No. 3, Section 1102(a) which became effective May 9, 1995].
     However, in 1978, with the Act of 1978, September 13, P.L. 756, No. 141, the "Aggravating" and "Mitigating" Circumstances that were both located at 18 Pa.C.S Section 1311(d) were seperated, and only the "Aggravating" circumstances remained there while the "Mitigating" circumstances were moved to 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1311(e). Many of you reading this may not understand the importance of this information, but it's as simple as this:

     In a capital case where a First Degree Murder Defendant faces the possibility of the "DEATH PENALTY", the jury must weigh the Aggravating and Mitigating circumstances during their deliberations. If the jurors unanimously agree to more Aggravating circumstances than they unanimously agree to Mitigating circumstances, then their verdict will be the "DEATH PENALTY" . If the jurors unanimously agree to more Mitigating circumstances than they unanimously agree to Aggravating circumstances, then their verdict will be "LIFE" .

     However, pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102(a), from September 13, 1978 - to - December 4, 1980, juries have been directed to only deliberate Aggravating circumstances. Furthermore, from December 5, 1980 "until" May 8, 1995, juries have been directed to deliberate a repealed statute!!!
     In addition, anyone serving a "LIFE" sentence will not have this statute on their written Judgment of Sentence order because this statute has NEVER authorized a term of "Total Confinement" (Which is what a "LIFE" sentence is). This statute only authorizes "life imprisonment" which is something different altogether. (For an in-depth explanation on the differences between "Imprisonment" and "Total Confinement", go to the PAsentencing.com homepage and click on the "CRIMES CODE vs. SENTENCING CODE" option)

 

Futhermore, the statutory provisions of this statute only specify a sentence of the "Death Penalty" or "Life Imprisonment" not "Life Without The Possibility of Parole" or "Natural Life". THERE IS A DIFFERENCE! If the Judge pronounced this language in your sentence, you may have an illegal sentencing condition.

 

[EDITOR'S NOTE: For a more in-depth analysis on this statute, become a Gold Club Member to receive information on "THE TRUTH ABOUT FIRST DEGREE MURDER IN PENNSYLVANIA"  in our PAsentencing.com FREEDOM PACKET, 1st Edition.]



     42 Pa.C.S. Section 9714. Sentences For Second and Subsequent
     Offenses
     This statute was enacted with the passing of the Act of 1982, March 8, P.L. 169, No.54, and is infamously known as one of Pennsylvania's "Mandatory Minimum Statutes". This statute is basically Pennsylvania's version of the "3 Strikes Law" and is in-fact a more extensive second-coming of a former Pennsylvania law known as the "Habitual Offender Law" (see: Act of 1929, April 29, P.L. 854, Section 4.)
     Although 42 Pa.C.S. Section 9714 was originally enacted with the passing of Act of 1982, March 8, P.L. 169, No. 54, this statute was not amended to authorize the imposition of "LIFE" imprisonment until 1995 with the passing of Act of 1995, October 11, P.L. 1058, No. 21. Consequently, if this statute is stated within your written Judgement of Sentence order to authorize your "LIFE" sentence of imprisonment, your offense had to be committed on or after December 11, 1995. If your offense was committed on December 10, 1995, or any date before that, then the sentencing judge has committed an 'ex post facto' violation against you and you have an illegal sentence!


     Furthermore, this statute can only be used to authorize a sentence of "LIFE" imprisonment if the defendant had, at the time of the commission of the offense, previously been convicted of two or more crimes of violence, arising from separate criminal transactions. However, there are many other prerequisite statutory provisions that must be satisfied before this statute can lawfully authorize a judge with the statutory authorization to impose "LIFE" imprisonment. Due your research on this statute if it's on your written Judgment of Sentence order because it is obviously arbitrary by nature and can easily be dissected.

 

 

[EDITOR'S NOTE: For a more in-depth analysis on this statute, become a Gold Club Member to be automatically provided with a copy of our PAsentencing.com FREEDOM PACKET, 1st Edition.]

 

 



    42 Pa. C.S. Section 9715. Life Imprisonment For Homicide
     This statute was enacted with the passing of the Act of 1982, March 8, P.L. 169, No. 54, and is infamously known as one of Pennsylvania's "Mandatory Minimum Statutes". Statute 42 Pa.C.S. Section 9715 authorizes the imposition of "LIFE" imprisonment upon a defendant as a "Mandatory" sentence if such defendant is convicted of Murder of the Third Degree in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who has previously been convicted at any time of murder or voluntary manslaughter in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or the same or substantially equivalent crime in any other jurisdiction  (meaning any other state outside of Pennsylvania). This statute became effective June 8, 1982, so this statute can only authorize "LIFE" imprisonment if the instant offense was committed on or after June 8, 1982. If the instant offense was committed on June 7, 1982, or any date before that, then the sentencing judge committed an 'ex post facto' violation against you and you have an illegal sentence!
     Furthermore, subsection (b) at 42 Pa.C.S. Section 9715(b)  Proof at sentencing of this statute details the procedure necessary for the sentencing court to comply with when determining if this statute is applicable to a defendant. Do your research on this statute if it's on your written Judgment of Sentence because it is obviously arbitrary by nature and easily dissected...

 

Moreover, the statutory provisions of this statute only specify a sentence of "Life Imprisonment" not "Life Without The Possibility of Parole" or "Natural Life". THERE IS A DIFFERENCE! If the Judge pronounced this language in your sentence, you may have an illegal sentencing condition. 

 

[EDITOR'S NOTE: For a more in-depth analysis on this statute, become a Gold Club Member to receive information on "THE TRUTH ABOUT THIRD DEGREE MURDER IN PENNSYLVANIA", provided in our PAsentencing.com FREEDOM PACKET, 1st Edition.]

     Now that we've covered all statutes under Pennsylvania Law that provide statutory authorization for a judge to impose a "LIFE" sentence of imprisonment in Pennsylvania, you must know that anytime a defendant attempts to appeal his/her imposed sentence, the Courts will site one case - regardless of the issues that defendant raises in his/her appellate filling:

 

 

- Commonwealth v.Yount , 615 A.2d 1316 (1992)

     However, in Com. v. Yount (supra), defendant Jon E. Yount raised the issue that he should have a "Minimum Sentence" set by the sentencing judge (for his "LIFE" sentence) pursuant to a specific number of years so that the "Maximum Sentence" can also be established with a specific number of years. As a result, the Court informed Jon E. Yount that he could not be sentenced to a "Minimum Sentence" for his sentence of Life Imprisonment because he had been sentenced pursuant to "Mandatory" sentencing statute 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102.
     Jon E. Yount subsequently lost his appellate litigation for the following reasons:
 
     1. Jon E. Yount did not know that 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102 did not exist at the time of the commission of his alleged crime. It would be have been impossible for Jon Yount to have been sentenced pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102 because Jon Yount was sentenced in 1966! 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102 did not become effective until June 6, 1973!!! In other words, the court lied to him!. Furthermore, Jon E. Yount was requesting a "Minimum Sentence" from the courts even though the Board of Probation and Parole does not have lawful jurisdiction over terms of life imprisonment. [See: 61 Pa.C.S. Section 6137 Parole Power.]

     2. He did not raise the claim of "statutory authorization". Remember, all sentences imposed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania must be authorized by statute, and such statute must be on the written Judgment of Sentence order to represent the verity of the sentence imposed. You deserve to know what statute was used to authorize your sentence, and if no statute was used, your sentence must be vacated because it's Illegal! 



  3. The court did not sentence Jon E. Yount pursuant to statutory law as was presumed. The court sentenced Jon E. Yount pursuant to "Equity".

 

 

 

 

 

THE UGLY TRUTH ABOUT EQUITY

 

 

     Throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it is presumed that statutory law authorizes the punishments imposed by the Judicial Branch of government during sentencing. 

 

Statutory law: The body of law derived from statutes rather than from constitutions or judicial decisions. 

 

However, this is only the case when a "mandatory minimum sentence" is applicable under the law and accessible to the judge pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. Section 9721 (a.1) Exception. If there is no "mandatory minimum sentence" applicable under law, the judge simply imposes a sentence pursuant to one of the sentencing alternatives at 42 Pa.C.S. Section 9721 (a) under the principle of EQUITY... 

 

equity: The body of principles constituting what is fair and right... The recourse to principles of justice to correct or supplement the law as applied to particular circumstances...

 

[See: BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY, Eighth Edition]

 

As you can see from the above-displayed definition of "Equity", it is clear to see that "Equity" is a form of law based off principles instead of any laws enacted by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. It is also clear to see that "Equity" is a form of law used to correct or supplement the law whenever a judge wishes not to apply law to a particular circumstance. 

 

This is why most prisoners across the state of Pennsylvania do not have a statute written on the Judgment of Sentence order to verify statutory authorization, and why many other prisoners do not even have a written Judgment of Sentence order at all to verify the existence of any imposed sentence! THE JUDGE IMPOSED THE SENTENCE NOT PURSUANT TO STATUTE, BUT PURSUANT TO THE JUDGE'S OWN PERSONAL PRINCIPLES!!! THE JUDGE KNOWS THAT NO "STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION" EXISTS FOR THE SENTENCE THE JUDGE INTENDS TO IMPOSE, HOWEVER, THE JUDGE BELIEVES THAT HE MUST SENTENCE THE CONVICTED DEFENDANT TO PROTECT THE INTEREST OF THE COMMONWEALTH AND ENSURE PUBLIC SAFETY. THEREFORE, THE JUDGE APPLIES HIS "PRINCIPLES" TO THE SITUATION INSTEAD OF ENACTED STATUTES. AND THIS DISPLAY OF EQUITY OVER STATUTORY LAW IS ILLEGAL!

 

 

 

SEEK TRUTH... BE AWARE... MAKE A DIFFERENCE...

 

Signing off, 

 

The Solutionist

 

 

 

 

 

PAsentencing.com was created solely for the purpose of providing the public with accurate information concerning the Pamphlet Laws of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and other related subject matter. However, this website was not created by persons licensed to practice law throughout the state of Pennsylvania. PAsentencing.com should not be construed as a substitute for the advice or representation of an attorney, but rather an aid towards addressing specific aspects concerning illegal sentencing procedures throughout the state of Pennsylvania.

 

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