Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Zak T. Goldstein, Esquire, recently argued in front of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the case of Commonwealth v. J.W. In that case, the defendant had been convicted in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas of aggravated assault and related charges. The Commonwealth alleged that J.W. shot another man in the head and injured him. J.W.’s co-defendant was wearing a probation GPS monitor at the time, and video evidence showed J.W. and the co-defendant together earlier in the day. The GPS evidence placed the co-defendant at the scene of the shooting. Video surveillance also showed that more than one person was involved, so the Montgomery County jury convicted J.W. based on his link to the co-defendant from being seen with him earlier in the day, the GPS evidence, and a number of recanted statements from witnesses.
J.W. was represented by different counsel at trial. He retained Attorney Goldstein for the appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. On appeal, Attorney Goldstein argued that the GPS evidence was hearsay which should not have been introduced into evidence at trial. The Commonwealth had agreed that the GPS evidence was hearsay but argued that it was admissible pursuant to the business records exception, which allows otherwise inadmissible hearsay to be introduced when the hearsay is kept in the normal course of business and appears to be reliable.
The Superior Court rejected the argument, holding in a matter of first impression that computer generated evidence like GPS records is never hearsay because they are the statements of computers rather than humans. Attorney Goldstein filed a petition for allowance of appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court granted the petition to determine whether the rule against hearsay prohibits evidence like GPS records. Attorney Goldstein therefore participated in oral argument before the Court in Philadelphia, and the Court will now decide this important issue of law.
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