Superior Court Affirms Montgomery County Evidence Preclusion Order

Filed under: Criminal Law by Contributor @ January 13, 2014

On January 9, the Superior Court in a non-precedential decision affirmed Montgomery County Judge Thomas Branca’s order granting the defendant/appellee’s motion to preclude evidence in Commonwealth v. Page, which effectively dismissed the case. Amanda Page was charged with Unsworn Falsification to Authorities after she allegedly lied to police when she told them that she was with Teron Utsey, who was suspected of robbery, on the night of that robbery. When cell tower data showed that she was in fact not with Utsey at that time, the police filed a complaint against Page.

Prior to trial, Page filed a motion for pre-trial discovery and then later a motion to compel discovery. Under Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 573, the Commonwealth must provide certain evidence to the defendant upon request, with the consequences for the failure to do so being at the judge’s discretion. The Commonwealth did not request from the police and did not provide to Page until the day before trial the cell phone records of Teron Utsey, the cell phone records of Page, and the testimony and statements of two other witnesses the Commonwealth intended to call at trial. Moreover, this evidence was available to the Commonwealth for several months, and at no time did the prosecutor comply with the motion for pre-trial discovery or the motion to compel discovery. As such, the Judge Branca granted Page’s motion to preclude all of the aforementioned evidence, which effectively dismissed the case.

On appeal, the prosecution argued that effectively dismissing the case was not the proper remedy, especially considering the fact that the “failure to produce the evidence was inadvertent and there was no deliberate, bad faith overreaching by the prosecutor intended to provoke [Page] into seeking a mistrial or to deprive her of a fair trial.” The Superior Court rejected this argument, however, finding that the failure to request the police to turn over the evidence in their possession and the failure to provide that evidence to the defense constituted prosecutorial misconduct, which justified effectively dismissing the case. In his dissent, Senior Judge William Platt opined that the proper remedy should have been a continuance rather than an effective dismissal because the only prejudice to Page was mere surprise.

To speak to one of our Montgomery County criminal defense attorneys, contact Fairlie and Lippy today.

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