The Pennsylvania Superior Court has upheld the life sentence for Paul Lehman, a Cambria County man who was convicted of first-degree murder last year.
Lehman was sentenced last June to life in prison without the possibility of parole after being found guilty of killing 19-year-old Deontaye Hurling on Thanksgiving Day in 2018.
Authorities say Lehman admitted to fighting with Hurling over drugs and testified that he allegedly saw Hurling reach for a gun, at which point he pulled a knife out of his pocket and stabbed him 46 times, causing him to crash into a fish tank.
On Wednesday, the court issued an opinion upholding Lehman’s sentence after he filed a petition for relief last year.
The court says Lehman filed the petition based on three evidentiary rulings:
Lehman argued that the court made a mistake in not allowing him to use rap songs/music videos, produced by Hurling, as evidence, as the videos reportedly showed Hurling rapping about committing acts of violence.
Lehman then argued that the court made a mistake in allowing a text message that he sent to an attorney, shortly after the crime was committed, as evidence.
Lastly, Lehman argued that the court made a mistake in allowing previous, perjury statements that he (Lehman) made during a status conference to be used as evidence during the trial, stating that it violated the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence.
The court opinion concluded that 1) Mr. Hurling’s videos were not “autobiographical” and Lehman failed to provide any evidence suggesting otherwise, 2) the court’s admission of the text message was made in “harmless error” and Lehman only made vague claims of prejudice at trial. The opinion also noted that the contents of the test message actually corroborated Lehman’s claims of self-defense. And 3) the opinion concluded that Lehman’s reasons for objecting the use of previous statements at trial were unclear, as he never mentioned any previous objections during the trial.
Lehman is serving his sentence at SCI Rockview in Centre County.