Friday, February 04, 2011

Richard Poplawski's trial delayed again to early June

Mr. Poplawski appeared in court Thursday in red scrubs, accompanied by a police dog and seven sheriff's deputies. He looked sallow and unfazed as his lawyers discussed the case.

The trial of Richard Poplawski was delayed once again Thursday, this time because an expert retained by his lawyers was seriously injured in a bicycle accident and had been unable to prepare a key report. Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning had also postponed the trial several months ago to give more time to lawyers representing Mr. Poplawski, a 24-year-old Stanton Heights man charged with killing three Pittsburgh police officers. Killed on April 4, 2009 were Officers Eric G. Kelly, Paul J. Sciullo II and Stephen J. Mayhle. Mr. Poplawski's lawyers, Lisa Middleman and William Brennan, told Judge Manning Thursday that their mitigation specialist, Bill Cammarata, had been hospitalized after a bicycle accident. He had been unable to work for about eight weeks, they said. Deputy District Attorney Mark Tranquilli countered that the prosecution had dealt with difficulties, too. The psychiatrist who serves as the commonwealth's main expert in homicide cases, Bruce Wright, had treated Mr. Poplawski's mother for psychiatric illness, and therefore could not testify in this case, he said. "We are now in the unenviable position of having to seek out and obtain some other psychiatrist," Mr. Tranquilli said. Judge Manning nonetheless granted Mr. Poplawski's lawyers an extension, postponing the trial until June. Mr. Poplawski appeared in court Thursday in red scrubs, accompanied by a police dog and seven sheriff's deputies. He looked sallow and unfazed as his lawyers discussed the case. Ms. Middleman told Judge Manning that while Mr. Cammarata would not necessarily serve as a witness, the material he would prepare is critical for other experts to review. Mr. Cammarata was retained to gather evidence from Mr. Poplawski's social history to persuade a jury to spare his life in the death penalty phase of the trial, if he is convicted. Mitigation specialists say they spend months and sometimes years digging into a defendant's background to better understand what drove them to commit a capital crime. "Mr. Cammarata is an expert who's being paid at public expenses. So I'm going to give him a deadline and I expect him to meet it," he said. - Vivian Nereim, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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