Pennsylvania v. McClelland (majority)Annotate this Case
In Pennsylvania ex rel. Buchanan v. Verbonitz, 581 A.2d 172 (Pa. 1990), a five-Justice majority of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held hearsay evidence alone was insufficient to establish a prima facie case at a preliminary hearing. In this case, a divided superior court recognized the Verbonitz holding, but did not follow it, despite acknowledging “the facts of Verbonitz are virtually indistinguishable from the case sub judice.” The Superior Court articulated five reasons for its departure from Verbonitz: (1) the Verbonitz Court did not agree on a single rationale to support its holding; (2) the Superior Court, in Pennsylvania v. Ricker, 120 A.3d 349 (Pa. Super. 2015) (“Ricker I”), appeal dismissed as improvidently granted, 170 A.3d 494 (Pa. 2017) (per curiam) (“Ricker II”), rejected the position of the three-Justice Verbonitz plurality, opining hearsay violated confrontation rights; (3) the Verbonitz minority relied on a substantive due process analysis contradicted by Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266 (1994); (4) Verbonitz was decided before the 2013 amendments to Pa.R.Crim.P. 542(E); and (5) there was no procedural due process violation here. Upon careful review, the Supreme Court held the superior court erred to the extent it concluded hearsay evidence alone was sufficient to establish a prima facie case at a preliminary hearing. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s decision in this matter and disapproved that court's prior decision in Ricker I, which similarly concluded hearsay evidence alone was sufficient to establish a prima facie case at a preliminary hearing.