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In re Investigating Grand Jury (Stretton)

2005 PA Super 369, 887 A.2d 257 (2005)

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In re Investigating Grand Jury (Stretton)

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

2005 PA Super 369, 887 A.2d 257 (2005)

Facts

“Mr. Y” (defendant) privately retained attorney Samuel Stretton in a criminal matter in which “Mr. Y” was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping, rape, and robbery and sentenced to death. “Mr. Y” appealed his conviction in February 1983. In April 1983, Stretton filed a motion to withdraw as counsel. The motion was granted in May 1983, and the office of the public defender was appointed to represent “Mr. Y” on his appeal. During the appeal, “Mr. Y” pursued an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim against Stretton. In September 2003, “Mr. Y’s” sentence was vacated because of advances in DNA testing. After “Mr. Y” was released, the state re-investigated the charges against “Mr. Y,” because the state believed “Mr. Y” made incriminating statements to Stretton in a phone call from prison after Stretton withdrew as “Mr. Y’s” counsel. “Mr. Y” called to express his anger with Stretton’s representation and the result of the case. On the call, Stretton did not tell “Mr. Y” whether the conversation would be privileged. It was not clear whether “Mr. Y” had communicated yet with his new attorney when he reached out to Stretton. The state subpoenaed Stretton to testify before the grand jury. Stretton asserted the attorney-client privilege and refused to testify. The court found him in contempt and fined him $100 per day. Stretton appealed the order of contempt.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Klein, J.)

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