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Commonwealth v. Antoine Ligons J-121-2007 (5/27/2009)

Majority Opinion by Justice Baer (joined by Justice Todd, joined by Justice Saylor in parts I-IV, VI, and VIII; joined by Chief Justice Castille, Justice Eakin and Justice McCaffery in parts I, the first half of part V, and the first half of part VII); Concurring Opinion by Chief Justice Castille (joined by Justice Eakin and Justice McCaffery); Concurring and Dissenting Opinion by Justice Saylor; Justice Greenspan did not take part in this case

Topics: 1.) PCRA Counsel Ineffectiveness 2.) Batson Challenge – Racial Makeup of a Jury

Issue 1 Summary: The Majority Opinion concludes that an appellant may raise a claim of PCRA counsel ineffectiveness in the Superior or Supreme Court without having to file a new petition before the PCRA court.

Issue 1 Illustration: Defendant alleged that PCRA counsel was ineffective in his appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Defendant did not raise this issue before the PCRA court before raising it in the current appeal. Under the law, Defendant would appear to be barred from raising this claim until the current appeal is complete. However, the delay would put the Defendant outside of the time limitations of the PCRA. Therefore, in order to enforce the Defendant’s right to effective counsel in a first PCRA proceeding, the Supreme Court has no choice but to entertain challenges to PCRA counsel’s effectiveness even where the issue was not previously raised before the PCRA court.

Issue 2 Summary: Where a district attorney uses 9 of 20 peremptory challenges to eliminate African-American jurors, 7 African-Americans were impaneled, there were no overt signs of racial discrimination, and the case was not racially sensitive a Batson challenge failed.