Mr. Cooley's areas of practice are:
In Pennsylvania, immediately after sentencing, if a defendant wishes to appeal his conviction or sentence, he or she must act quickly to preserve their appellate rights. Quickly means filing what's called a Post-Sentencing Motion (PSM) within ten (10) days after sentencing, identifying issues that made your guilty plea, trial, or sentence (e.g., probation, jail time, prison sentence) unfair and/or unconstitutional. To identify potential claims to raise in your PSM, you need an expertised post-trial and appellate attorney.
If the defendant files an untimey PSM this can negatively impact his or her appeal in the following ways: (1) an untimely PSM can result in the defendant waiving or defaulting certain claims, meaning the sentencing court and appellate court will refuse to consider these issues; (2) an untimely PSM will impact when the defendant must file his or her Notice of Appeal (NOA). The filing of the NOA, in other words, depends on when the defendant files his PSM. The NOA is simply a short pleading informing the sentencing court that you (the defendant) intend to appeal (or challenge) your conviction and/or sentence to the Pennsylvania Superior Court (the intermediate court of appeals).
Here are post-sentencing motions I've written and filed:
Litigating a criminal appeal requires knowlege of appellate procedure, excellent writing skills, a comprehensive understanding of criminal law and procedure, and legal research skills. Mr. Cooley has all four skills.
After conviction and senctence, Pennsylvania defendants have an automatic right to appeal their conviction and/or sentence, even if the defendant is not sentenced to jail or prison time. Thus, defendants who are placed on probation or have other rights restricted, like driving privileges, may appeal their conviction and/or sentence to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.
Pennsylvania defendants have a due process right to an appellate attorney. Thus, if you cannot afford an attorney, the trial judge will appoint you an attorney.
In Pennsylvania, depending on when the defendant files his post-sentencing motion (PSM) he will have 30 days to file a Notice of Appeal (NOA) with the trial judge or Clerk's Office. If a defendant does not file a timely PSM, he must file his NOA within 30 days of when he or she was sentenced.
Once the defendant files a timley NOA, the trial judge will eventually rule on the defendant's PSM, which may result in a new trial or sentence, but that's not very common; if the trial judge denies the PSM, the trial judge will then request the defendant to file what's called a 1925(b) Statement, which is a short pleading clarifying what issues the defendant intends to raise on direct appeal. The 1925(b) Statement is CRITICAL because if an issues is not raised in this statement, there is a strong likelihood the Superior Court will NOT consider the issue.
Here's a sample of a 1925(b) Statement:
Here are samples of appellate briefs I've written and argued:
PCRA stands for Post-Conviction Relief Act. Post-conviction, as the name suggests, takes places after conviction, but also after direct appeal. Post-conviction is similar to trial and direct appeal in certain respects, but it's also fundamentally different. At trial, the defendant can plead guilty or proceed to a jury or bench trial, where either a jury or judge will render a verdict and the judge will impose a sentence.
After conviction, defendants have a right to appeal their convictions and/or sentences to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Importantly, direct appeals are limited to record-based claims-or claims contained in the trial record, which is a collection of transcripts of the trial court proceedings and any documents or pleadings filed in connection with the case.
Post-conviction, on the other hand, is in many ways the opposite of direct appeal. On direct appeal, the defendant is limited to alleging errors that are apparent from the trial court record. If the error can't be identified in the trial court record, it generally can't be raised on direct appeal. The opposite is true with post-conviction, as post-conviction relief is intended to address and rectify errors that can only be proved with off-the-record evidence-or evidence outside the trial court record. Thus, in post-conviction, defendants must generally develop and present "new evidence"-not in the trial court record-that proves some sort of statutory or constitutional violation.
For instance, a defendant can develop and introduce "new evidence" to prove his trial attoreny was ineffective and that his attorney's inadequate representation rendered his trial or guilty plea fundamentally unfair. An example would be obtaining statements from key alibi witnesses that trial counsel failed to interview before trial and attaching these "new" alibi statements to a post-conviction petition that alleges trial counsel was ineffective for not interviewing and presenting these alibi witnesses at trial. Because these "new" alibi statements aren't part of the trial court record, the defendant's ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim must be raised during post-conviction rather than direct appeal.
Likewise, a defendant can develop and introduce "new evidence" to prove that the prosecutor or police failed to disclose evidence that would've changed the outcome of his or her guilty plea, trial, and/or sentence. For example, the defendant may gain access to the investigating agency's case file after conviction and learn that key police reports supporting his alibi weren't turned over to his defense attorney prior to trial. The defendant can attach these "new" police reports to a post-conviction petition that alleges the prosecution violated his due process rights by not disclosing evidence that supported his alibi defense. Because the "new" police reports aren't part of the trial court record (because the prosecution suppressed them), the defendant's due process claim must be raised during post-conviction rather than direct appeal.
In Pennsylvania, the first time a defendant can challenge his trial attorney's advocacy (or lack thereof) is during PCRA proceedings. Thus, it's critical to file a timely PCRA petition before the Common Pleas Court. Under the PCRA, a defendant has ONE-YEAR from the date his CONVICTION BECOMES FINAL to file a PCRA petition. One-year means ONE-YEAR; the PCRA does NOT recognizing statutory or equitable tolling. Meaning, if the defendant files an untimely PCRA petition, NO COURT in the Commonwealth will have jurisdiction to rule on it.
Consequently, it's imperative you retain a qualified PCRA attorney immediately after direct appeal to ensure your PCRA rights and right to effective trial and appellate court are protected and vindicated.
Here are PCRA petitions other post-conviction petitions I've filed in PA and other states:
After direct appeal and PCRA proceedings, both of which occur in state court, a defendant can challenge his state conviction in federal court under 28 U.S.C. 2241 and 2254. If certain conditions are satified, a federal court may review the defendant's federal constitutional claims. The defendant must present federal constitutional claims to the federal court because federal courts answer federal law questions, not state law questions. Here are the federal courts in PA:
Pursuing federal habeas relief can be very complicated due to procedural and timeliness requirements. A defendant must satisfy the following procedural and timeliness requirements before a federal court will have the authority to review the merits of his federal constitutional claims:
Here are habeas petitions I've written and filed:
42 Pa. G.S. 9543.1 sets out the procedures for a prisoner's post-conviction DNA testing request, which is a subsection of the Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA).
Litigating post-conviction DNA testing motions requires expertise in:
Mr. Cooley has expertise in all these areas and has litigated and negotiated numerous post-conviction DNA testing motions across the United States. He also litigated Commonwealth v. Conway, 14 A.3d 101 (Pa. Super. 2011), which changed the landscape of the DNA testing case law in Pennsylvania to benefit innocent prisoners pursuing DNA testing. Mr. Cooley has pursuaded several prosecutors to consent to DNA testing in lieu of litigating the issue, saving his client and the Commonwealth time and money.
Here are samples of DNA motions I've written and filed:
I have worked with multiple forensic experts to challenge forensic evidence during post-conviction proceedings. These are some of the affidavits we have filed challenging bite-mark identification, antiquated serology testimony, and the Commonwealth's reconstructive analysis of an alleged murder. Also, I've worked with numerous mental health experts over the years, including experts in PTSD, battered women, neurology, organic brain damage, psychology, and psychiatry.
1308 Plumdale Court
Pittsburgh, PA 15239
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