July 9, 2014 |
Mandatory minimum sentences for gun- and drug-related offenses are in limbo across Pennsylvania, delaying trials and causing confusion in hundreds of cases as courts grapple with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued last year. Despite the frustrations, some in the legal community are hoping the turbulence will draw fresh attention to a hotly disputed practice and stimulate further debate. The issue bubbled up in Bucks County in June, when five county judges signed an opinion siding with an alleged heroin dealer whose attorney had argued that the mandatory minimum sentences she was facing were unconstitutional.
February 1, 1991 |
For the first time, a committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association has endorsed the idea of permitting the city's Defender Association to represent poor people charged with murder. In a 42-13 vote that marked a major turning point in more than a decade of debate over the issue, the Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section, mostly composed of private lawyers, accepted the argument that involving public defenders in murder cases would improve the system. In the past, the Bar Association blocked efforts to include the Defender Association in such cases, trying to preserve a system in which private lawyers received hourly fees for court appointments.
January 23, 1987 |
A new Police Department directive designed to reduce long lags between arrests and bail hearings is expected to be issued next week, police officials said yesterday. The directive is the work of a committee composed of representatives from the Municipal and Common Pleas courts, the Police Department, the Defender Association and the Philadelphia Bar Association. The committee was appointed by Common Pleas President Judge Edward J. Bradley in response to an incident in which a South Philadelphia man who suffered a stroke was arrested as a drunk driver and held for more than 40 hours before being arraigned.
March 14, 2002 |
Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham's annual budget presentation to City Council yesterday turned into a critical review of her aggressive pursuit of the death penalty. Councilman Michael Nutter led much of the lengthy, and sometimes contentious, verbal sparring. Since Abraham took office in 1991, her prosecutors have sent 77 people to death row. In 1995, the New York Times Magazine dubbed her the "Deadliest D.A.," and the moniker stuck. "I'm going to uphold the death penalty as long as it's on the books in Pennsylvania," Abraham told Council.
November 27, 1986 |
A committee to study ways to speed the city's arraignment process and ensure that detainees with mental or physical problems are properly cared for was appointed yesterday by Common Pleas Court President Judge Edward J. Bradley. Bradley's move came in response to an incident in which a Northeast Philadelphia man, who was later determined to have suffered a stroke, was detained by police. The man, Robert Caraffa, 56, was arrested Oct. 17 and charged with drunken driving after the car he was driving struck a pair of parked autos.
July 22, 1988 |
Cops call it "the tank," a grimy subterranean cage in the Police Administration Building. Nearly everyone arrested in Philadelphia waits there - sometimes up to a day - to be arraigned by a city bail commissioner. Most, their advocates say, spend 18 to 22 hours crowded into a cell with about 50 prisoners, dining on cold egg sandwiches and coffee, unable to phone lawyers or get medical help. After nearly two years of vain talk about reform, the Defender Association of Philadelphia yesterday filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the city and top police and court officials, alleging that up to 38,000 people a year are subjected to "illegal and unconstitutional" confinement and "unnecessary delay" before being arraigned.
March 25, 2004 |
Jurors in the rape and murder case of 6-year-old Destiny Wright remained sequestered a second night while the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered yesterday whether a public defender should be forced to continue to represent the man accused of the crime. Assistant Defender Andrea Konow has refused to proceed with the trial of Abdul Malik El-Shabazz after he punched her cocounsel, Assistant Defender Fred Goodman, during trial on Monday. Common Pleas Court Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan found Konow in contempt and jailed her on Tuesday.
April 21, 1990 |
The rape victim's mother broke down on the witness stand in Common Pleas Court. "You're lucky the cops found you before I did, because you would be dead," she shouted to admitted rapist David Hall, 21, a security guard. I want to see you dead. I hope you never forget, because I won't. God knows you should be ashamed. " Hall, of 56th Street near Girard Avenue, was in court yesterday to be sentenced for raping a 9-year-old girl in an abandoned home on Jan. 5, 1989, when he decided to plead guilty to breaking into the woman's home on July 12, 1988, and attacking her daughter as she slept on a couch.
December 5, 1986
You thought Philadelphia's bench had enough troubles? "What next?" you thought. Well, here's what next: The rulings of Common Pleas Court Judge Mary Rose Fante Cunningham - all of them since February - are being challenged because she has been playing ball, secretly until recently, with federal prosecutors. The city-funded defenders agency has thrown down this latest gauntlet, arguing there can be no justice when a judge trying to save her own skin as an FBI informant is - at the same time - passing judgment on defendants that prosecutors want to see locked up. There are arguments on the other side, chief among them the fact that Judge Cunningham (who has acknowledged taking cash from the Roofers Union and recording conversations with fellow judges)
July 3, 2001 |
A Delaware County Court judge has vacated the death sentence of Angel Reyes, 56, a former Chester resident convicted of first-degree murder for drowning his 4-year-old daughter in Ridley Creek to spite the girl's mother in May 1993. Reyes' first-degree murder conviction still stands, but Judge Frank T. Hazel ordered a new sentencing hearing, saying defense counsel was ineffective for failing to provide relevant evidence to the jury during the trial's penalty phase. His decision followed several lengthy post-conviction hearings that included testimony from doctors and Reyes' relatives in Puerto Rico who described Reyes' mental problems and the abuse and dire poverty that he endured while growing up on the island.