Acting as own attorney, imprisoned Yorker beats new charges

Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

SUNBURY — Acting as his own attorney, a York County man predicted he would win a new trial more than three years ago after he was convicted of assaulting a prison guard at the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township.

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And the now 25-year-old was correct, to the surprise of his new attorney, Jim Best.

DaShaun Jamison, of York, has been imprisoned since he was 15, after he was arrested and convicted of being involved in a high-speed chase in 2005 in York City that resulted in a fatality. He was sentenced to a state prison term of 6½ to 11 years.

Jamison admitted to police at that time his involvement in the case and said he wanted to do his time and move on with his life.

After bouncing from prison to prison, he landed at Coal Township in 2013. There Jamison had a run-in with a correctional officer that resulted in five charges, including felony aggravated assault.

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Jamison claimed he was set up by the guards and was defending himself.

After more than 20 hours of testimony, Jamison, who represented himself and who lacks a high school diploma, convinced a Northumberland County jury to acquit him of five of six charges, including one felony charge that could have resulted in extending his sentence by as many as 14 years.

The sentence then-Northumberland County President Judge Robert Sacavage imposed was three to six years to be served after Jamison completed his York County term.

Jamison would have maxed his sentence at the end of November, but with the new punishment, Jamison would be stuck behind bars for what could be another six years.

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Jamison appealed his case to the state Superior Court, saying Sacavage did not explain the rules of waiving his right to an attorney correctly. Jamison won his argument in 2015.

“I’m going to get a new trial,” Jamison told Sacavage right before he was sentenced. “But I thank you, judge.”

In a state Superior Court decision in 2015, Jamison was granted the new trial when the court agreed that Sacavage failed to properly explain Rule 121 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure. Rule 121 covers a defendant waiving his right to counsel.

Jamison fired three defense attorneys prior to representing himself in his 2013 trial. Jamison told Sacavage the reason he continued to fire his attorneys was because they were not listening to him.

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The case was set for pre-trial motions, but before the charismatic convict — who said he is eager to go to trial — takes to the stage inside the courtroom, he will have a separate court appearance in November on bail reduction, Best said.

Best, a Northumberland County conflicts attorney, will be in Jamison's corner and said he will be filing a motion for bail to be set at the end of November, when Jamison maxes out his original state sentence.

Dashaun Laquinn Jamison when he was arrested in 2005 as a 15-year-old in York City.

Best said he is impressed with Jamison and that Jamison rejected the offer of a plea deal to go to trial on the lone count of aggravated assault.

That trial is expected to take place in January, Best said.

"He is a bright kid," Best said. "You talk to him and you think 'what the heck are you doing? You should be doing better things with your life.'"

During the 2013 trial, Jamison had jury members laughing and crying as he pleaded his case. At the end of the trial, jury members spoke to Jamison and told him they were sorry they even had to convict him of a single crime.

“I have received misconducts while incarcerated, but in the prison system, there is no jury to decide anything,” Jamison said. “So it’s always my word versus a guard’s. I am not a violent person, and I used my time wisely to learn the law and history. I don’t believe anyone in the jury believed I was a violent person, and I still maintain my innocence. I am not a hardened criminal."

Best said Jamison will be transferred to the Northumberland County Prison wing of the Coal Township facility at the end of November. He is currently being held in the State Correctional Institution at Frackville.