Philadelphia criminal appeals lawyer Lloyd Long discusses details surrounding the Pennsylvania’s Superior Court’s decision in the Griffin case for drug. Griffin was observed selling drugs over a two week period in September 2013. After a bench trial in early July 2014, he was convicted of PWID.
In early August, he moved for a new trial based on after-discovered evidence, consisting of allegations that P/O Stephen Dmytryk, who was substantially involved in the investigation, had engaged in prior unlawful behavior. The basis was 1) a federal indictment mentioning (but not charging) his involvement in wrongful conduct, 2) newspaper accounts repeating the alleged conduct, 3) the complaint in a federal civil rights case, and 4) material from the civil rights case’s underlying criminal proceedings. The allegations came to light in late July of 2014. The lower court granted a new trial because it would have acquitted Griffin had it been aware of this evidence.
The Commonwealth appealed, arguing that the after-discovered evidence was not admissible, that it could only be used for impeachment purposes, and that it would not compel a different verdict.
The Superior Court reversed. The proffered evidence from the indictment and the federal civil rights complaint was not evidence: they were allegations from a separate matter not relevant to Griffin’s case. Moreover, Dmytryk was not indicted and the EDPA USAO stated that it was not pursuing an investigation against him.
The newspaper article was not evidence; it was a reporter’s version of facts. Further, while a newspaper article might indicate the existence of evidence, it is insufficient in and of itself to result in the grant of a new trial under Pa.R.Crim.P. 720(C).
Finally, the allegations in the civil rights case’s underlying criminal matter were irrelevant to, and inadmissible in, Griffin’s case.
Even if Griffin had produced admissible evidence, the result likely would have been the same. He argued that the evidence would have been used to undermine Dmytryk’s credibility. Evidence that would be used solely for impeachment purposes cannot compel a new trial under Rule 720(C).