Time line at issue in convict’s appeal
A man convicted in the 1993 beating of a woman, then her death 14 years later, wants a Pennsylvania appellate court to order his resentencing, saying he should have been punished under laws at the time of the beating not given the harsher sentence allowed at the time she died in 2007.
A Superior Court panel last year ruled 3-0 in favor of Stevenson Rose, but the full court heard arguments again because Allegheny County prosecutors appealed the order that Rose be resentenced in the death of Mary Mitchell, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Wednesday.
Rose and another man were charged with attacking Mitchell in a Pittsburgh park in July 1993, when police said they slashed her neck, kicked and stomped her and caused other internal injuries with a 14-inch piece of metal.
Rose was convicted of aggravated assault and attempted murder and sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison. When Mitchell, who was living in a vegetative state, died of her injuries years later, Rose was convicted of third-degree murder and sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison, the maximum sentence for the crime in 2007. Third-degree murder carried only a 10- to 20-year maximum when Mitchell was attacked.
The Superior Court panel last year concluded that Allegheny County Judge Kathleen Durkin’s sentence was inappropriate, given that the attack occurred when the maximum sentence was half what it is now.
But Deputy District Attorney Daniel Fitzsimmons argued Tuesday that the current penalty should apply because the murder didn’t occur until Mitchell actually died.
“You can’t have homicide without a death,” Fitzsimmons told the court.
But Judge John Bender, who was part of the three-judge panel that rejected the prosecution’s arguments last year, asked Fitzsimmons if the appeal isn’t really about whether the penalty for Rose’s actions was changed after the fact.
“Isn’t it as simple as that?” Bender asked.
Fitzsimmons argued that a murder charge has no statute of limitations and that Rose couldn’t be charged until all the elements of the offense — Mitchell’s death — occurred.
Rose’s attorney, William Kaczynski, argued the murder statute doesn’t define when a murder occurs.
“Mr. Rose did nothing further to the victim after 1993. Everything that caused the death of the victim occurred in 1993,” Kaczynski said.
President Judge Correale Stevens appeared to agree with the prosecutor when he asked Kaczynski “so he benefits because the person he beat up lingered on and didn’t die right away?”
The court is expected to rule later this year.