HARRISBURG – The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania will not hear an appeal related to Lakisha Marie Ward-Green’s conviction on charges of manslaughter and reckless driving, according to a Dec. 7 order, allowing a Superior Court of Pennsylvania ruling made in the case to stand.
The order came after the commonwealth’s high court had previously said it would consider the appeal. Ward-Green had successfully argued that a GM ignition switch may have been to blame for the fatal accident at the center of her conviction.
But the Superior Court overruled that decision, and in the Dec. 7 order, the Supreme Court said “the appeal is dismissed as having been improvidently granted.”
Assistant Allegheny County District Attorney Rebecca McBride, who was the prosecuting attorney in the Ward-Green case, told the Pennsylvania Record that the Supreme Court’s Dec. 7 order means “Ward-Green’s conviction and sentence stand.”
McBride said Ward-Green pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and reckless driving on Jan. 10, 2013, in connection with a Sept. 3, 2010, accident that killed Robert Chambers, a passenger in the vehicle Ward-Green was driving.
“At the involuntary manslaughter count, she received four to eight months imprisonment with 121 days credit followed by three years of probation during which she was ordered to engage in community service,” McBride said.
The reckless driving plea resulted in a $200 fine.
The Superior Court opinion said an event data recorder/airbag control module indicated that Ward-Green was driving 40 miles over the posted speed limit at the time of the crash.
According to the Superior Court’s June 10, 2016, appeal ruling, which was written by Judge Jacqueline O. Shogan, Ward-Green was allowed by the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County to withdraw the initial guilty plea. The judge who granted the withdrawal request later recused himself from the case.
Although she also entered a “negotiated” guilty plea after the new trial court judge took over the case, the Superior Court said “Ward-Green filed a Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition on March 24, 2015, seeking withdrawal of her guilty plea based on a substantive claim of after-discovered evidence that ‘the crash was due to a mechanical failure in her vehicle caused by a defectively designed ignition switch.’”
The Superior Court said the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania argued on appeal that Ward-Green’s plea withdrawal petition was time-barred, but the trial court allowed her to file an amended petition and “granted Ms. Ward-Green’s amended petition and vacated her guilty plea.”
In response to the Commonwealth’s appeal of the order vacating the plea, the Superior Court reversed the Common Pleas court ruling, stating that the evidence showed that there was no reason why Ward-Green could not have filed her PCRA petition “within 60 days – at the latest – of her receipt of (a) settlement fund notice in October of 2014.”
McBride said the Superior Court’s ruling reversed an Aug. 26, 2015, order of the PCRA court granting Ward-Green post–conviction relief.
“The Superior Court held the PCRA court lacked jurisdiction to address the substantive merits of Ms. Ward-Green’s petition and grant her collateral relief (vacating her guilty plea),” McBride said. “In other words, the Superior Court found that Ward-Green failed to overcome the PCRA time bar through invocation of the 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9545(b)(1)(ii) statutory exception.”