The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

June 25, 2014

DA ordered to explain failure to file appeal brief

PINE TOWNSHIP — One person was conspicuously absent from Tuesday’s resentence of Anthony Machicote – Jeremy Melvin, Machicote’s co-defendant in the 2003 killing of a night supervisor at George Junior Republic, Pine Township.

His absence was due to the Mercer County District Attorney’s Office failing to file a brief in an appeal in Machicote’s case, while filing its brief on time in Melvin’s.

Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas R. Dobson has ordered the DA’s office to explain at a July 7 hearing why it did not file a brief in the Machicote case, or ask for reconsideration when the state Superior Court dismissed the appeal.

The Machicote case is not the only one in which the DA’s office has failed to file a brief. Another significant case was the appeal of Aaron M. Bradley, who was convicted of robbing a Sharon pharmacy. Superior Court earlier this month ordered a new trial after determining Judge Robert G. Yeatts should not have allowed the victims of the robbery to identify Bradley, whose face was partly covered.

In the Machicote case, District Attorney Robert G. Kochems said he was not aware a brief had not been filed until after the assistant district attorney who had been handling appeals, Cynthia A. Gilkey, had resigned.

A motion for reconsideration can be filed up to 10 days after an appellate court makes a decision.

“We weren’t prepared to deal with it until it was too late,” he said, speaking outside of court Tuesday, following Machicote’s resentence.

The brief in the Melvin appeal was filed on time because it was due two days later, Kochems said, acknowledging that it likely would have been identical to one his office would have filed in the Machicote case.

Dobson had complained earlier of the delay in resentencing Machicote and Melvin, and went through the procedural histories of the cases to explain to audience members “why we’re here.”

Melvin and Machicote each pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and were sentenced to life in prison with no chance for parole.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to mandate a sentence of life without parole for juvenile offenders.

Dobson said he held off on resentencing Machicote and Melvin to allow the state Supreme Court to issue guidelines on how to handle this case.

“After 18 months, this court realized the delay was unconscionable,” Dobson said.

He declared the sentences for Urey’s killers unconstitutional based on the U.S. Supreme Court Case, known as Miller vs. Alabama.

The Mercer County District Attorney’s Office appealed. While that appeal was pending, the state Supreme Court said the Miller case was not retroactive, meaning juvenile defendants who previously were sentenced to life without parole were not entitled to new sentences.

The DA’s office discontinued the appeals, then reinstated them.

Because the Machicote appeal was dismissed, Dobson’s previous order that his sentence was unconstitutional stands. Dobson said he “has no out” but to resentence Machicote with guidance by the Miller case.

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