Joshua Hupperterz, who was sentenced to life in prison on Jan. 17 for killing Temple University junior Jenna Burleigh in 2017, is challenging his first-degree murder conviction.
“He’s not considering it, he’s doing it,” said David Nenner, who represented Hupperterz in the nearly two-week trial in early January.
Nenner filed a post-sentence motion — the first step toward an appeal — with the Court of Common Pleas on Jan. 24, according to court documents. Nenner expects the appeal will be denied and sent to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania for review.
Nenner will argue that Dr. Kenneth Levy, a psychiatrist with knowledge on the effects of the anti-anxiety medication Xanax, should have told jurors that combining Xanax and alcohol could lead to homicidal behavior.
The defense is also raising whether police had probable cause to search Hupperterz’s apartment on Sept. 1, 2017 — a search that found evidence of Hupperterz’s and Burleigh’s DNA in blood samples.
Nenner maintained during the trial that Hupperterz’s roommate, Jack Miley, strangled Burleigh to defend Hupperterz after Miley’s night of drinking and taking Xanax. Nenner argued the drug can lead to violence and memory loss when mixed with alcohol.
Miley testified that he woke up to Hupperterz cleaning up blood in their 16th Street apartment on Aug. 31, 2017, several hours after Burleigh was murdered, but maintained that he did not have anything to do with her death.
Court of Common Pleas Judge Glenn Bronson allowed Levy to testify on Jan. 16 but prohibited discussion on whether the drug and alcohol could cause Miley to have homicidal behavior.
Levy testified that it was possible Miley blacked out and forgot events during the time of Burleigh’s death.
Forensic analysts from the Philadelphia Police Department testified they found numerous blood samples that matched both Hupperterz’s and Burleigh’s DNA while searching his apartment.
They did not identify traces of Miley’s DNA in any of the more than 15 blood samples taken from the apartment, and Miley’s bedroom was one of the only places in the apartment without evidence of blood.
On Feb. 28, Bronson will review the post-sentence motion on whether the guilty verdict was fair given the evidence presented during the trial. Because the evidence weighed heavily against Hupperterz, Nenner said he expects Bronson will deny his motion.
Bronson sentenced Hupperterz on Thursday to one-and-a-half to three additional years in prison for possession with intent to deliver, according to court documents.
Police testified during the nearly two-week murder trial that they found 10 to 15 pillow case-sized bags of marijuana and $20,000 in cash in Hupperterz’s apartment in the days following Burleigh’s murder. Several witnesses testified that Hupperterz sold them marijuana.
Hupperterz’s sentences are now life without parole, with an additional four-and-a-half to nine years for possession of the instrument of crime, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence, plus the one-and-a-half to three years for drug possession.