Com v. Crispell: PCRA Petitions may be amended to add new claims, even if the new claims fall outside of the “one year” rule
In an otherwise mundane PCRA affirmance, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled unanimously that a PCRA petitioner may move to amend his petition to add an additional claim, even if that claim could not be independently brought as a second petition where a second petition would be time barred.
PCRA petitions must normally be filed within one year of final adjudication. Crispell filed his petition timely, but then obtained information tending to implicate a Brady violation after his filing. While more than a year had passed, at that time, since his final adjudication, Crispell sought leave to amend his PCRA petition to include this new claim. The PCRA court believed it lacked jurisdiction to entertain this claim. Our Supreme Court reversed, with Justice Wecht writing for the Court. The claim was permitted as an amendment, as only petitions are time-barred after a year, not potential amendments to petitions.
Amendments should be considered under the Rules of Criminal Procedure. “PCRA courts are invested with discretion to permit the amendment of a pending, timely-filed post-conviction petition,” and amendments should be liberally allowed to aid the pursuit of “substantial justice.”
The case was remanded for consideration of whether the Brady claim should be allowed as a timely amendment to the case.