Courts release, then return convicted murderer to prison
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
By Bill Moushey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Just hours after the Common Pleas Court judge who last
year reversed a
former Latrobe man's 1986 double-murder conviction agreed to release
him from prison while prosecutors appeal, another court ordered him to
remain in prison until the case runs its course.
But the attorney for David J. Munchinski, 52, said last
night he will
petition Pennsylvania Superior Court today for the immediate release of
his client, who has served almost 20 years on convictions the judge
last fall ruled were due to "ongoing prosecutorial misconduct."
"He's a very patient man," said attorney Noah Geary of
Washington, Pa., who has fought for the past 31/2
years to overturn Munchinski's convictions for the 1977 execution-style
slayings of James Peter Alford and Raymond Gierke in the Laurel
Highlands resort community of Bear Rocks.
"He's been on the wrong side of court decisions many
times ... a few more days are not going to hurt," Geary said.
The machinations surrounding his release began early
visiting Senior Judge Barry Feudale of Northumberland County issued a
four-page order releasing Munchinski from custody while the Superior
Court considers an appeal of Feudale's October reversal of the
Munchinski told Feudale last week that if released he
would move to
Florida to live with his daughter to await a new trial ruling or
dismissal of charges.
In his order yesterday releasing Munchinski on his own
Feudale reiterated claims made last year in his 114-page reversal order
that three different Fayette County prosecutors -- two of whom are now
judges -- hid and altered evidence and committed other ethical
indiscretions that "violated all principles of justice and fairness."
Feudale said he ordered the release before appeals are
a retrial will be extremely difficult as most of the witnesses are
either dead or discredited, or both.
He also said Munchinski appeared at every court
appearance when he was
released on bond between his initial trial, which ended in a hung jury
in 1983, and his second trial that culminated with his conviction in
The Pennsylvania attorney general's office, which took
over the case
when Fayette prosecutors removed themselves from it, not only have
appealed Feudale's reversal but also have filed a flurry of recent
actions claiming Munchinski should not be granted bail because he faces
life in prison.
Just hours after the release order was filed in Fayette
attorney general's office asked Superior Court to keep Munchinski in
prison until it reviews the bond order and rules on the appeal.
Superior Court granted the stay about 4 p.m. yesterday.
Last night, Geary said he will respond to the stay order
hopes of securing Munchinski's release soon. A spokesman from the
attorney general's office said it will continue to oppose Munchinski's
release until all appeals are exhausted.