An attorney’s prior experience as a prosecutor is relevant to his or her qualification to represent a capital case defendant, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced in a recent order amending the official Comment to Rule of Criminal Procedure 801. Rule 801 provides experiential requirements for capital case counsel, including having a minimum of five years criminal litigation experience and having served as lead or co-counsel in a minimum of eight “significant cases” that went to a jury. The revised official Comment clarifies that “experience in the role of either prosecutor or defense counsel should be considered.” Additionally, a reference in the text of Rule 801 to the “district attorney” filing a Notice of Aggravating Circumstances was changed to “attorney for the Commonwealth” to reflect that the Attorney General can prosecute a capital case. Additional information is available in the Criminal Procedural Rules Committee’s Final Report. These amendments are effective April 1, 2016.
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