There are important differences, too. Jay Smith was given three death sentences. But Smith's conviction was thrown out because, among other things, investigators were paid large sums of money by author Joseph Wambaugh to illegally funnel case information to him before there were any arrests, and the prosecutor (since convicted on drug charges and sent to prison) and police hid and possibly fabricated evidence. But when you go to any of the major search engines to find out about Jay Smith and what Pennsylvania's criminal justice system did to him, all you get Joseph Wambaugh's Echoes in the Darkness (the book and the movie). Truth in Justice is remedying that with reports Pete Shellem wrote for the Patriot-News as the story unfolded. Like Attorney William C. Costopoulos, who represented Jay Smith, we understand how important the integrity of the criminal justice system is.
Evidence surfaces in Reinert
A box removed from the attic of the lead investigator in the famed Susan Reinert murder case has yielded evidence that seems to raise serious questions about the case and could clear convicted killer Jay C. Smith.
A duplicate of the comb that connected Smith to the crime scene, investigative notes that contradict prosecution testimony and a letter from an author offering an investigator $50,000 before arrests were even made were found in a box that Trooper Jack Holtz was apparently discarding.
All evidence from Smith 's trial is supposedly sealed by court order and stored by the state attorney general's office.
William C. Costopoulos, the Lemoyne lawyer representing Smith, a former Upper Merion High School principal who was sentenced to death for Reinert's murder, filed papers in Dauphin County Court late Friday asking Senior Judge Robert L. Walker to put all evidence from the case in the care of a court-appointed custodian.
Costopoulos also asked that the judge order the prosecution to explain why the evidence was not turned over to the defense, and to allow him to analyze some evidence.
Smith and William S. Bradfield Jr., Reinert 's fellow English teacher at Upper Merion, were convicted of killing Reinert and her two children in 1979 to collect $750,000 in insurance in a case that evolved into a national best seller and a highly rated CBS miniseries. The bodies of the two children, ages 11 and 10, were never found.
Wellsville flea marketer Mark A. Hughes said he stumbled across the box in material he collected after being hired by Holtz to clean out the attic and basement of the trooper's Lower Paxton Twp. home.
Hughes turned the evidence over to Costopoulos on March 17, believing it showed a police cover-up in the case. Hughes was the subject of a brief theft investigation initiated by Holtz after the trooper learned of the box.
Hughes was questioned for more than two hours by state troopers Thursday, but Dauphin County District Attorney Richard A. Lewis said he will not be charged.
Chief Deputy Attorney General M.L. "Skip" Ebert Jr., who is handling the Smith case, said he was waiting to see what evidence Costopoulos has before assessing its impact on the case.
However, he said all the evidence was ordered sealed by the court at the close of the 1986 trial and is supposedly in sealed boxes in the possession of the attorney general's office.
"The evidence that was presented in the trial in Dauphin County was sealed by the court and those containers are with me," Ebert said. "Once the materials are turned in, then, in the presence of the court, maybe some of these boxes will be opened and we'll find out what's in them."
State police officials would not return repeated phone calls from The Patriot-News. Holtz was unavailable for comment.
Smith received three death sentences in the 1979 murders, but was granted a new trial in December 1989 by the state Supreme Court. Costopoulos is now arguing that a second trial would constitute double jeopardy because of misconduct by prosecutors.
Hughes' discovery will further strengthen that argument, Costopoulos said.
He said the most critical piece of evidence found in the box is a comb marked 79th USARCOM Smith 's reserve unit. During the trial, an identical comb was introduced by prosecutors and alleged to have been found under Reinert 's body when it was discovered in the trunk of her car at a Swatara Twp. motel.
Sealed in an evidence bag with fingerprint lifters and marked with FBI lab identification numbers, the comb is not the same one that was presented at trial, according to Costopoulos' petition.
The comb police used to link Smith to the crime scene at the 1986 trial was labeled as a trial exhibit and the comb in the evidence bag is not, Costopoulos said.
Furthermore, based on Ebert's comments, the comb presented at the trial should be sealed with other evidence in the attorney general's office.
In addition to the comb, a Jan. 29, 1981, letter from author Joseph Wambaugh - who wrote "Echoes in the Darkness," a best-selling book about the case - shows he offered Holtz's late partner, Sgt. Joseph Van Nort, $50,000 for information before there were any arrests, according to the petition.
"P.S. Since I would start the leg work immediately we should be very careful about being seen together for the sake of your job," Wambaugh wrote. "As far as witnesses would know, I received all my information from news stories and anonymous tips."
Efforts to contact Wambaugh for comment were unsuccessful.
The box also
contained 23 numbered and dated notebooks prepared by Holtz, with the exception
of number 13. Costopoulos claims the 13th
Costopoulos has long challenged whether there was a deal with Martray to testify. He alleges in the petition that Holtz wrote in another notebook that Martray quoted Smith as saying he "did not" kill Reinert .
In an interview with another jailhouse informant, Holtz's notes state that alleged co-conspirator Bradfield admitted that he acted alone in the slayings, according to the petition.
Further, Holtz's notes show that witnesses told him Reinert's daughter, Karen, wore a blue pin with the letter "P" on it, like one that was found in Reinert 's car, the petition states. One witness testified at Smith 's trial that she wore a green pin like one that was allegedly discovered in Smith 's car a year after the murder while the former principal was incarcerated.
Costopoulos had little comment about the new twist in the case, saying the petition "speaks for itself."
"Normally exculpatory evidence comes from the commonwealth," he said. "This is the first time I got it from a junkman on the way to the incinerator."
Costopoulos' petition blasts what he calls the error-laden prosecution of the case, which has taken new turns nearly every year since Smith 's conviction.
Costopoulos initially attacked the conviction after it was discovered that rubber evidence lifters containing sand reportedly taken from Reinert 's feet were found in an evidence locker during the final days of the trial. They were not revealed to the defense until more than a year later.
The lifters support Costopoulos' allegations that Reinert was killed at the New Jersey shore by Bradfield.
He also notes in the petition that hair and fiber evidence that the prosecution used to link Smith to the slaying was lost from 1983 until the middle of the trial in 1986, receipts that refuted Bradfield's alibi are missing, the 911 tape alerting authorities to the discovery of Reinert 's body was mistakenly destroyed, Reinert 's body was accidentally cremated, and the autopsy audio tape was lost until after the trial.
"In this case, the commonwealth has consistently concealed or `lost' material," Costopoulos charges in the petition.
"Until a judge
tells me what to do with it, I intend to keep the box I got from the junkman,"
Author paid trooper probing
The lead investigator in Susan Reinert 's slaying was paid at least $45,000 by an author the same year that Jay C. Smith was convicted of her murder.
Documents obtained by The Sunday Patriot-News show that state Trooper Jack Holtz received the money in 1986 from Joseph Wambaugh, who wrote "Echoes in the Darkness," a best seller that was the basis for a highly rated CBS miniseries.
Records also show that Holtz, a 23-year veteran of the state police, purchased a Porsche 944 and a resort home on North Carolina's Outer Banks in the year after the trial while earning a annual salary of about $35,000.
Agents from the FBI's Harrisburg office have launched an investigation into Holtz's actions, according to sources familiar with the probe. In addition, the state police are conducting an internal investigation.
State police regulations prohibit investigators from accepting outside money for police work unless specifically approved by the commissioner.
"A member shall not seek or accept any form of reward or renumeration excluding wages paid by the department as a result of his or her conduct while acting within the authority of his or her badge except as directed by commissioner," according to state police field regulations adopted in 1975.
Furthermore, the regulations prohibit dissemination of confidential information, especially that which might compromise the judicial process.
David J. Malarney, resident agent in charge of the FBI's Harrisburg office, would not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation, but said: "The FBI would look into any violations that it has jurisdiction over and follow the investigation to wherever the evidence may lead."
Holtz declined to comment.
"I'm in a very uncomfortable position and all releases are being handled by the department," Holtz said when contacted at his home late last week.
State police officials declined to comment on whether Holtz ever had agency approval to accept payment or on other aspects of the case. They noted that Holtz is under internal investigation and it is department policy not to comment on such matters.
Wambaugh did not respond to interview requests made through his publicists and agent.
The latest developments follow the discovery of a discarded box from Holtz's home two weeks ago that Smith 's attorney said in a court motion contained exculpatory evidence against Smith .
According to Dauphin County Court papers filed by Lemoyne lawyer William C. Costopoulos, the box contained a comb found under Reinert 's body and investigatory notes that contradicted trial testimony.
A similar comb was used at the trial to connect Smith to the crime scene. All evidence used at the trial was sealed by court order and is now in the hands of the state attorney general's office.
The box of evidence, which was found by a junk dealer contracted to clean out Holtz's attic and basement, also contained a letter showing that Wambaugh had offered Holtz' late partner, Sgt. Joseph Van Nort, $50,000 in January 1981. William S. Bradfield Jr., Smith 's accused co-conspirator, and Smith weren't arrested until 1983 and 1985, respectively.
Costopoulos sharply criticized Holtz and Wambaugh, and said the state attorney general's office should reconsider its case against Smith .
"The attorney general's office has done what they could to protect the reprehensible prosecution of Jay Smith ," Costopoulos said. "The integrity of the criminal justice system is now also at stake. Maybe now they will reconsider."
A federal 1099
tax form shows Wambaugh paid Holtz $45,000 in 1986, but other documents
raise more questions about when and how much he
The 44-year-old trooper was instrumental in the prosecution of Smith , a former principal at Upper Merion High School, and Bradfield, Reinert 's fellow English teacher at the school. The pair were convicted of killing Reinert and her two children in 1979 in order to collect $750,000 in insurance money.
Bradfield was convicted in 1983 of conspiracy to commit murder and is serving three life sentences in the Graterford state prison.
Smith , who has been incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon since his 1986 conviction, was granted a new trial in 1989 on grounds the trial court allowed inadmissible hearsay testimony to be presented. Costopoulos is arguing that a second trial would constitute double jeopardy because of misconduct by the prosecution.
The box containing the alleged evidence from the case was discovered by Wellsville antiques dealer Mark A. Hughes, who said Holtz had contracted with him to clean out the attic and basement of his Swatara Twp. home. Hughes gave the evidence to Costopoulos on March 17.
A hearing has been scheduled for April 27 on Costopoulos' petition demanding an explanation from the prosecution.
Along with questioning why the evidence was in Holtz' home, Costopoulos is expected to ask who else was paid and when.
Former Deputy Attorney General Richard L. Guida, who prosecuted Smith and Bradfield, said he was not paid anything from Wambaugh.
However, he said he received about $2,000 for legal work he performed for New World Television, the company that produced the miniseries a year after Smith 's conviction.
"I was a salaried employee of another lawyer at the time," Guida said. "So that money went to him and not me. I had no knowledge of the purported letter to Van Nort and I had no knowledge of anyone being paid anything other than directly related to the production of the film."
In a 1987 article about the movie, Guida said he and Holtz were scheduled to be technical advisers for the film. However, the director did not want real characters on the set.
Prosecutor William Behe, who assisted Guida in the Bradfield case, and Trooper Jack Lotwick, who participated in the investigation, went to the set instead, according to Guida.
Behe, who is now an assistant U.S. attorney in Middle District Court, said he was paid in cash for his help, but would not say how much.
"I don't think that's anybody's business," he said. "After everyone was convicted and they were putting this thing together was the first I heard they were going to do anything. I didn't see anything even remotely inappropriate with being contacted more than a year after it was over."
Lotwick, who received approval from former State Police Commissioner John K. Schafer for his advice on the film, declined comment.
an attorney for New World Pictures, said he did not know who was paid for
their help with the movie. Individual producers decide their own expenses,
Former high school Principal Jay C. Smith, on death row for the 1979 murders of English teacher Susan Reinert and her two children, was freed yesterday after the state Supreme Court overturned his conviction.
The court cited "egregious" misconduct by prosecutors and state police in suppressing evidence at his 1986 trial.
"I'm bitter. I'm angry," Smith said shortly after walking from the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon.
"Do you have a nuclear bomb I could drop on Pennsylvania?" he said later. That's how bitter I feel. The Pennsylvania State Police tried to kill me."
Smith was freed at 7:01 p.m. after the state attorney general's office said it would not ask the court to reconsider its 5-0 decision that retrying him would amount to unconstitutional double jeopardy.
The court's order to release Smith , who has spent six years on death row, closed the tattered case against him, which spawned two books and a television miniseries.
Smith was convicted of conspiring with William S. Bradfield Jr., another English teacher in Upper Merion School District, to kill Reinert , whose nude and battered body was found in the trunk of a car abandoned in the parking lot of a Swatara Twp. motel in 1979. They also were found guilty of murdering her two children, whose bodies have never been found.
The court ruled that prosecutors acted so outrageously during the trial that a new trial, ordered in 1989 but never held, would amount to double jeopardy under the state constitution.
The ruling sent shock waves across the state from the prison in Huntingdon, to the Harrisburg area where Reinert 's body was found, to suburban Philadelphia, where the sordid drama unfolded 13 years ago.
The state attorney general's office conceded defeat. Since the ruling was based on the state constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court could not be asked to intervene.
"We could petition for reargument, but we don't see that as an option in this case," said Robert Gentzel, spokesman for Attorney General Ernie Preate Jr. "It's a 5-0 decision. We see no likelihood that they would even grant reargument, nonetheless change their minds."
The case has been unraveling since Smith 's triple death sentence six years ago, with almost annual revelations of new or suppressed evidence. Yet the ruling came as a surprise to those who have followed the nationally-known case.
Attorney William C. Costopoulos, who fought for Smith from the beginning, said the ruling was a victory for the citizens of Pennsylvania, bolstering protection against overreaching prosecutors.
But the attorney general's office, while blaming the past administration for the problems in the case, said the Supreme Court was overreaching, giving criminals more rights than are found in the U.S. Constitution "even when the words are virtually identical."
The ruling hinges on the protection against being tried twice for the same crime, called double jeopardy.
Usually, when errors are made in a criminal case, the remedy offered by appellate courts is a new trial. Prior to this ruling, double jeopardy was granted only to defendants who were acquitted or when prosecutors had deliberately provoked a mistrial.
However, the court found the misconduct of the prosecution team hiding evidence and deals with witnesses to be so outrageous that to put Smith through another trial would "violate all principles of justice and fairness in the Pennsylvania Constitution's double-jeopardy clause."
"The record establishes the bad faith of the prosecution beyond any possibility of doubt; indeed it would be hard to imagine more egregious prosecutorial tactics," Justice John P. Flaherty wrote in the court's opinion.
"It is a gross understatement to conclude, as stated by the trial court and Superior Court that `neither the attorney general's office nor the Pennsylvania State Police can take any great pride in the manner in which this case was handled during the trial and on appeal."
Strangely, the court based its ruling on a hidden deal with a jailhouse informant and sand from Reinert's feet that was hidden from the defense evidence that was available to it when it ruled in 1989 that Smith should have a new trial.
The court had granted the new trial then because inadmissible hearsay testimony was introduced against Smith.
The sand, which would have supported Costopoulos' contention that Reinert was killed at the New Jersey shore by convicted co-conspirator Bradfield, was found in the last days of the trial but not revealed to the defense for almost two years.
Bradfield, who was Reinert 's fiance and the beneficiary of her $750,000 life insurance policy, is serving three life sentences in the slayings.
The ruling did not mention evidence that was uncovered earlier this year in the home of state police Trooper Jack Holtz, the main investigator in the case.
Boxes removed from Holtz's Swatara Twp. home by a junk dealer in March revealed a $50,000 deal with an author writing a book about the case. They also contained a comb that was used to place Smith at the crime scene. A duplicate comb was introduced at his trial.
Ironically, Smith 's two main prosecutors, Holtz and former Deputy Attorney General Richard L. Guida who were glamorized in Joseph Wambaugh's novel "Echoes in the Darkness" are now on the other side of the criminal justice system.
Guida is serving time in a federal prison for distributing cocaine. Dauphin County District Attorney Richard A. Lewis said a criminal investigation of Holtz has been turned over to a special prosecutor. Holtz also is being investigated for violating internal state police regulations.
While Costopoulos appeared elated at the decision, he said he was prepared for an outcry by those who will think a murderer is being freed.
"My only response to the outcry is that they don't understand how important the integrity of the criminal justice system is to them," Costopoulos said.
Even if Smith was guilty, the decision still would be valid, Costopoulos said.