Areas of Expertise

Mr. Cooley's areas of practice are:

Post-Trial and Post-Sentencing Matters

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:  

Commonwealth v. Frank Booker
Amended PSM for murder defendant
Booker_Supplement To Amended PSM_Final_F[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [436.9 KB]
Commonwealth v. Wayne James
Amended PSM for Wayne James
James_Amended Post-Sentencing Motion_Fin[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [536.8 KB]

Criminal Appeals

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:



Commonwealth v. Bin Wang
Appeal to Pennsylvania Superior Court regarding the dismissal of a timely-filed PCRA petition.
Wang_Concise Statement of Errors on Appe[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [884.8 KB]
Commonwealth v. Christian Bueno
Appeal to Pennsylvania Superior Court regarding dismissal of Mr. Bueno's second PCRA petition.
Bueno_1925(b) Statement_Final_Mailed_093[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [614.1 KB]
Commonwealth v. Kurtis Graves
Appeal to Pennsylvania Superior Court regarding the dismissal of Mr. Graves' third PCRA petition.
Graves_Concise Statement of Errors on Ap[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [620.7 KB]

Here are samples of appellate briefs I've written and argued:

 

Commonwealth v. Bin Wang
Appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court regarding Mr. Wang's first PCRA dismissal.
Wang_Opening Brief_Final_File-Stamped_04[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [1.0 MB]
Commonwealth v. Anwar Rizvi
Appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court regarding Mr. Rizvi's first PCRA petition.
Rizvi_Opening Brief_Final_File-Stamped_0[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [2.3 MB]
Commonwealth v. Eddy Colon
Appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court regarding the dismissal of Mr. Colon's timely-filed first PCRA petition.
Colon_Opening Brief_Final_File-Stamped_0[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [10.9 MB]
Commonwealth v. Christian Bueno
Appeal to Pennsylvania Superior Court regarding Mr. Bueno's second PCRA petition.
Bueno_2nd Opening Brief_Final_File-Stamp[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [702.5 KB]
Commonwealth v. Reginald Bryant
Petition for Allowance of Appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court asking the Supreme Court to review the Superior Court's opinion affirming the dismissal of Mr. Bryant's first PCRA petition.
Bryant_Corrected PAA_Final_File-Stamped_[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [1.8 MB]
Commonwealth v. Armel Baxter
Petition for Allowance of Appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court asking the Supreme Court to review the Superior Court's opinion affirming the dismissal of Mr. Baxter's first PCRA petition.
Baxter_Corrected PAA_Final_File-Stamped_[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [40.7 MB]
In re: John Kunco
Appeal to 3d Circuit Court of Appeals asking for authorization to file a successive habeas petition based on newly-discovered scientific evidence regarding the unreliability of bite mark evidence
Kunco_Motion To Remand or Authorize_0403[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [377.7 KB]
In re: Andrew Swainson
Appeal to 3d Circuit Court of Appeals asking for authorization to file a successive habeas petition based on newly-discovered evidence, i.e., a recantation from the prosecution's key witness
Swainson_Memo Seeking Authorization_Fina[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [245.7 KB]
Commonwealth v. Robert Conway
Won DNA testing for Conway (PA client) who's serving a prison sentence for 2nd-degree murder
Conway_Appellate Brief_091609.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [3.4 MB]
Commonwealth v. Anthony Wright
Convinced PA Supreme Court to review PA Superior Court's decision denying DNA testing because Wright allegedly confessed to the murder he was convicted of
Wright Petition for Allowance (filed Nov[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [3.0 MB]
Commonwealth v. John Kunco
Argued that Kunco should be awarded a new trial based on the National Academy of Sciences report finding bite mark identification unreliable
Kunco_Opening Brief_Final_042911.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [4.4 MB]

PCRA Investigation and Litigation

PCRA Investigation and Litigation: PCRA stands for Post-Conviction Relief ActPost-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 I've filed in PA and other states:

Commonwealth v. Thomas Clark
PCRA petition asking the PCRA court to reinstate Mr. Clark's direct appeal rights nunc pro tunc.
Clark_PCRA Petition_Final_Filed_041717.p[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [1.7 MB]
Commonwealth v. Jon Nelson
Amended PCRA petition asking the PCRA court to reinstate Mr. Nelson's direct appeal rights.
Nelson_Amended PCRA Petition_Final_Filed[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [717.0 KB]
Commonwealth v. Judy Sprankle
Amended PCRA petition challenging Ms. Sprankle's attempted murder convictions.
Sprankle_Amended PCRA Petition_Final_Fil[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [926.3 KB]
Commonwealth v. Carl Johnson
Amended PCRA petition challenging Mr. Johnson's first-degree murder conviction.
Johnson_Amended PCRA Petition_Final_Flie[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [594.8 KB]
Commonwealth v. Reafeal Fields
PCRA petition challenging Mr. Fields' first-degree murder conviction.
Fields_Amended PCRA Petition_Final_File-[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [5.2 MB]
Commonwealth v. Rafiq Dixon
Amended PCRA petition challenging Mr. Dixon's first-degree murder conviction.
Dixon_Amended PCRA Petition_Final_File-S[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [779.3 KB]
Commonwealth v. Butchie Long
Amended PCRA petition challenging Mr. Long's first-degree murder conviction.
Long_Amended PCRA Petition_Final_Filed_0[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [897.1 KB]
Commonwealth v. Raymond Armstrong
Amended PCRA petition challenging Mr. Armstrong's first-degree murder conviction.
Armstrong_Amended PCRA Petition_Final_Fi[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [969.9 KB]
Commonwealth v. Nathan Bundy
PCRA petition in third-degree murder case raising trial counsel ineffectiveness claim because trial counsel failed to file a timely pre-trial suppression motion
Bundy_Amended PCRA Petition_Final_Filed_[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [782.8 KB]
Commonwealth v. Quawi Smith
PCRA petition in first-degree murder case raising several initial-review PCRA counsel ineffectiveness claims
Smith_Second PCRA Petition and Writ of H[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [560.2 KB]
Commonwealth v. Christian Bueno
PCRA petition in first-degree murder case raising numerous trial counsel ineffectiveness claims
Bueno_Amended PCRA Petition_Final_Filed_[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [633.2 KB]
Commonwealth v. Robert Cash
PCRA petition in rape case alleging trial counsel ineffectiveness claims and an unduly suggestive identification claim
Cash_Amended PCRA Petition_Final_Filed_0[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [850.7 KB]
Commonwealth v. Ajamu Lunsford
PCRA petition in attempted murder case raising several trial counsel ineffectiveness claims and an unduly suggestive identification claim
Lunsford_Amended PCRA Petition_Final_Fil[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [696.1 KB]
Commonwealth v. John Kunco
Argued that Kunco (PA client) should be awarded a new trial based on newly-discovered scientific evidence regarding the unreliability of bite mark evidence
Kunco_ PCRA NAS Memo of Law_041909.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [592.7 KB]
Commonwealth v. Andrew Swainson
Argued that Swainson (PA client) should be granted a new trial based on newly-discovered evidence, i.e., a recantation from the prosecution's star witness
Swainson_Memo of Law For PCRA Petition_1[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [3.0 MB]
Commonwealth v. Steve Edmiston
Argued that Edmiston's (PA client) conviction and death sentence should be vacated based on newly-discovered scientific evidence regarding the unreliability of hair identification
Edmiston_NAS PCRA Petition_041709.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [346.1 KB]
State v. Ricky Lee Nelson
Argued that Nelson (TN client) should be awarded a new trial based on false and misleading serology testimony
Nelson_Motion To Vacate_Final_052212.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [4.1 MB]
State v. Ricky Jackson
Argued that Jackson (TN client) should be awarded a new trial based on exculpatory DNA evidence and a suggestive photo array
Jackson_Coram Nobis and Motion to Reopen[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [4.5 MB]
State v. Sedrick Courtney
Argued that Courtney (OK client) should be awarded a new trial based on exculpatory DNA evidence
Courtney_Motion To Vacate_Filed Copy_031[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [2.3 MB]

Federal Habeas Corpus (28 U.S.C. 2254) and Federal Post-Conviction (28 U.S.C. 2255)

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: 

 

  • First, the defendant must be "in custody."  This generally means the petitioner must be incarcerated, on parole, or on probation.  Thus, a state petitioner doesn't technically have to be in prison (or incarcerated) to be considered "in custody."  As long as he or she is under the State's authority in some way, shape, or form the petitioner will generally be considered "in custody."  Note, however, that most State's don't consider registered sex offenders to be "in custody" because registration is considered a civil rather than criminal penalty.  

 

  • Second, the defendant must "exhaust" all his or her federal constitutional claims in state court.  This means the petitioner must've "fairly presented" his federal constitutional claims to every state court that had the authority to consider and grant relief based on his federal constitutional claims.

 

  • Third, the defendant must generally develop all the facts supporting his federal constitutional claims in state court.  Thus, he or she must diligently pursue every means available in state court to develop the facts of his or her federal constitutional violations.  If a state court rejects (i.e., adjudicates) a federal constitutional claim, and the defendant pursues federal habeas relief in federal court, the federal court may only consider the facts that were presented to the state court when the state court rejected (or adjudicated) the petitioner's federal constitutional claims.  In other words, once a state court adjudicates a federal constitutional claim, a federal habeas court may not consider new evidence not developed in state court and not presented to the state courts.  Thus, it's imperative the defendant pursue every avenue available in state court to develope the facts of his or her federal constitutional claims.   

 

  • Fourth, the defendant must file his federal habeas petition within one year of when his conviction became final.  Determining finality can be quite tricky for attorneys untrained in post-conviction litigation, and if the date of finality is incorrectly identified, the petitioner may be forever barred from pursuing federal habeas relief in federal court.  The one-year limitations period is not one year (or 365 days) as we generally think of it; instead, the limitation period is tolled (or stopped) when the defendnat timely pursues and files a PCRA petition in state court.  In short, figuring out the timeliness of a federal habeas petition is difficult, making it critical to consult with and retain an experienced post-conviction/habeas litigator. 

Here are habeas petitions I've written and filed:

Arthur Johnson v. Gilmore (Warden)
Amended federal habeas petition challenging Mr. Johnson's first-degree murder conviction.
Johnson_Amended 2254 Petition_Final_File[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [1.1 MB]
Quawi Smith v. Overmyer (Warden)
Amended federal habeas petition challenging Mr. Smith's first-degree murder conviction.
Smith_Doc 11_Amended 2254 Petition_Final[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [871.7 KB]
John Kunco v. Brian Coleman
Filed in the WD of PA
Kunco_Amended_2254_Petition_(Filed)_Fina[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [574.4 KB]
Andrew Swainson v. Jerome Walsh
Filed in the ED of PA
Swainson_Federal Habeas Petition_Filed_0[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [578.5 KB]
Ronnie Milligan v. E.K. McDaniel
Filed in D of NV (w/ Mike Charlton). Evidence in petition ultimately led to Milligan's release from death row and prison in 2010, after spending 30 years on NV's death row
Milligan Petition.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [1.2 MB]

Post-Conviction DNA Testing

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:

  • Evidence preservation,
  • Evidence searches
  • DNA testing methodologies,
  • Post-conviction DNA testing case law
  • Negotiating with prosecutors to consent to DNA testing in lieu of litigating the issue 

 

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 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:

Commonwealth v. Daniel Williams
Won DNA testing for Williams (PA client) who was convicted of first-degree murder in 1973
Williams_DNA Motion .pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [379.7 KB]
Commonwealth v. Daniel Williams
Argued that Edmiston (PA capital client) should be granted DNA testing (w/ Rob Dunham and Tiffany Murphy)
Edmiston DNA Motion (Nov. 2008).pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [316.9 KB]
Commonwealth v. Micahel Thompson
Won DNA testing for Thompson (PA client) who was convicted of sexual assault in 1991
Thompson DNA Testing Motion (filed Oct. [...]
Adobe Acrobat document [1.7 MB]
Commonwealth v. James Smith
Won DNA testing for Smith (PA client) who was convicted of sexual assault in 1999
Smith DNA Testing Motion (Filed Jan. 200[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [3.3 MB]
Commonwealth v. Kevin Siehl
Won DNA testing for Siehl (PA client) who was convicted of sexual assault in 1999
Siehl DNA Testing Motion (filed Jan. 200[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [5.6 MB]

Challening Forensic Evidence - Expert Affidavits

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. 

Commonwealth v. Bin Wang
Affidavit from forensic scientist and reconstructionist Brent Turvey challenging the reconstructive testimony presented by the Commonwealth's two forensic experts at Mr. Wang's 2009 murder trial. The Commonwealth's forensic experts opined that Mr. Wang's wife's shooting death was a homicide. Mr. Turvey disagreed and wrote a 35-page affidavit explaining why the totality of the physical evidence supported Mr. Wang's suicide narrative far more than the Commonwealth's homicide narrative.
Wang_Turvey Affidavit_Final_File-Stamped[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [956.0 KB]
Commonwealth v. Stanley Green
Affidavit by forensic pathologist Jonathan Arden challenging the testimony and opinion of the Commonwealth's forensic pathologist at Mr. Green's 2012 murder trial.
Green_Dr. Ardens Affidavit_Final_Signed_[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [228.1 KB]
Commonwealth v. Judy Sprankle
Affidavit by Victoria Reynolds a PTSD/battered woman expert opining that Judy Sprankle suffered from severe PTSD and therefore acted reasonably when she shot at her estranged husband when she feared for her life in September 2011.
Sprankle_Dr. Reynolds Affidavit_Final_02[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [477.4 KB]
State v. Ricky Lee Nelson
Affidavit from DNA/serology expert Gary Harmor challenging the State's serologist's testimony from Mr. Nelson's 1990 rape trial. Mr. Harmor's affidavit played a key role in the State agreeing to vacate his rape conviction.
Nelson_Affidavit of Gary Harmor_Final_Si[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [3.0 MB]
State v. Ricky Lee Nelson
Affidavit from DNA/serology expert Arthur Young challenging the State's serologist's testimony from Mr. Nelson's 1990 rape trial. Mr. Young's affidavit played a key role in the State agreeing to vacate his rape conviction.
Nelson_Arthur Young's Affidavit_Signed_F[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [351.3 KB]
State v. Ricky Lee Nelson
Affidavit from DNA/serology expert Bob Shaler challenging the State's serologist's testimony from Mr. Nelson's 1990 rape trial. Mr. Shaler's affidavit played a key role in the State agreeing to vacate his rape conviction.
Nelson_Affidavit of Bob Shaler_Signed_Fi[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [222.2 KB]
Commonwealth v. John Kunco
Affidavit from forensic dentist and bite-mark expert Michael C. Bowers challenging the bite-mark testimony presented by the Commonwealth's two bite-mark experts at Mr. Kunco's 1991 rape trial.
1053_Kunco_Bowers Affidavit_072209.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [219.4 KB]
Commonwealth v. John Kunco
Affidavit from forensic dentist and bite-mark expert Iian Pretty challenging the bite-mark testimony presented by the Commonwealth's two bite-mark experts at Mr. Kunco's 1991 rape trial.
1053_Kunco_Pretty Affidavit_081009_IAP m[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [209.1 KB]

Cooley Law Office

Pittsburgh Office

1308 Plumdale Court

Pittsburgh, PA 15239

 

412-607-9346 (cell)

919-228-6333 (office)

919-287-2531 (fax)

craig.m.cooley@gmail.com

 

CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS ACCEPTED

Print Print | Sitemap
© Cooley Law Office