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'Selfie' killer wants higher court to review 30-year sentence

| Monday, June 19, 2017, 4:51 p.m.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Westmoreland County Sheriff's escort Maxwell Morton, 18, of Jeannette, the 'Selfie' killer, out of holding, after his sentencing hearing, at the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg, on Monday, May 15, 2017. Common Pleas Court Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio sentenced Morton to serve 15 to 30 years in prison for the Feb. 4, 2015, shooting of 16-year-old Ryan Mangan.

The lawyer for a Jeannette man convicted of killing his friend then taking a selfie with the body on Monday asked a state appeals court to review the 30-year sentence imposed last month.

Maxwell Morton, 19, was convicted in February of third-degree murder for shooting 16-year-old Ryan Mangan in the bedroom of his Jeannette home in early 2015.

The defense appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court came about two weeks after Common Pleas Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio denied dual challenges to the 15- to 30-year sentence she imposed earlier in May.

The defense claimed Morton's prison sentence was too long and that the judge did not assign the proper weight to evidence presented during a hearing in which Morton said he was sorry and that the shooting was accidental.

During the trial, Morton's defense argued there was no animosity between the two teens and that it was Mangan who first pulled out the 9 mm semiautomatic weapon.

The defense claimed Morton didn't know the gun was loaded when he pulled the trigger and fired the fatal shot, which struck Mangan under his left eye.

Assistant District Attorney Tom Grace claimed Morton's sentence wasn't long enough. He sought a maximum 20- to 40-year prison term.

The prosecution initially pushed at trial for a conviction on a more serious charge of first-degree murder, which could have carried a life sentence. The prosecution contended Morton's actions — posing for a selfie with Mangan's body, then leaving the home rather than getting help for his friend — was proof of an intent to kill.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht testified at the trial that Mangan could have lived for up to an hour after the shooting.

Police linked Morton to the killing after receiving a copy of the picture that witnesses later said Morton sent via the social media app Snapchat to a friend in Wisconsin as proof that he killed Mangan.

The judge denied both the defense and prosecution appeals of Morton's sentence with one-paragraph orders that included no explanation for her decisions.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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