The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that a man convicted of third-degree murder in a 2016 Thanksgiving Day accident that killed three people after a police chase may face a mandatory life sentence.
The Tribune-Review reports that the state’s highest court cited the law’s so-called “plain and unambiguous language” to side with an appeals court ordering a new hearing for 28-year-old Homewood resident Demetrius Coleman, the term in office is 70 to 140 years.
According to prosecutors, on November 24, 2016, while fleeing a traffic stop, Coleman reached speeds of 100 miles per hour before colliding with a car that burst into flames in north Versailles, killing the driver, his fiancée and their young daughter.
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Coleman was found guilty of, among other things, third-degree murder, vehicle murder and aggravated assault in the death of Kaylie Meininger, 21; her fiance, David Bianco, 29; and her 2-year-old daughter Annika, who were on their way to a holiday lunch.
Prosecutors called for a mandatory life sentence, even though state law provides for a mandatory 20 to 40 year sentence for third-degree murder, citing another statute that allows such a sentence for anyone “convicted at any time of murder or first degree.” was convicted of manslaughter. “
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The trial judge said it was “illogical and ridiculous” since Coleman’s convictions came at the same time. Prosecutors appealed after Coleman was sentenced to between 70 and 140 years, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sided with them in February last year.
Coleman’s attorney argued in the state Supreme Court that the word “formerly” should be aimed at repeat offenders. Prosecutors referred to the full text of the law, which reads: “convicted at any time”.
Justice Kevin Brobson wrote for the Supreme Court majority in the opinion released Wednesday that while “earlier” would mean before, lawmakers clarified that “at any time” added that “no limitation as to prior conviction.” a person” would preclude applying the extended sentence.
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Judge David Wecht, however, wrote dissentingly that the legislature was clearly targeting repeat offenders and would have said so had its intention been anything other than “to punish a person convicted of murder after he has already been given a second chance at liberty.” . “