Pennsylvania v. Jones

In the early morning hours of July 4, 2008, Appellant Wendell Jones' former girlfriend, Sonsiarae Watts, and her boyfriend, Dahl Palm, were shot to death inside Watts’ home. After a grand jury investigation, Appellant was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, as well as burglary and a firearms offense. At his trial, Appellant testified he was at home alone watching television or sleeping on his couch when the crimes occurred. His counsel did not request an alibi instruction and the court did not give one. The jury convicted Appellant on all charges. The court imposed consecutive life sentences for the murders, a consecutive term of incarceration on the burglary charge, and no further penalty for the firearms violation. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowed appeal in this post-conviction matter to consider whether Appellant was entitled to a new trial, because counsel failed to request that the jury receive an alibi instruction or object to the trial court’s failure to give one. After review, the Supreme Court held Appellant did not demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that there was a reasonable probability the outcome of the proceeding would have been different had an alibi instruction been given to the jury. Thus, counsel’s failure to request such an instruction or to object to the lack of one did not undermine the Court's confidence in the jury’s verdicts. That being the case, Appellant was not entitled to a new trial. View "Pennsylvania v. Jones" on Justia Law