Tribune-Review


Judges carry 2 decades of misconduct, claims Munchinski lawyer

By Richard Gazarik
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, October 8, 2008

An attorney for convicted killer David Munchinski has accused two Fayette County judges of misconduct in murder trials when they were prosecuting attorneys.

Citing a recent federal court decision involving another Fayette County slaying, attorney Noah Geary accused judges Gerald Solomon and Ralph Warman of "intentional, deliberate, egregious, patent and ongoing misconduct" for two decades.

Geary made the charges in a filing Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh in another attempt to free his 55-year-old client from what Geary argues was a "wrongful conviction" in the 1977 murders of two men in Bear Rocks.

He cited last week's ruling by a federal judge in Pittsburgh that overturned the conviction and death sentence of Mark Breakiron of Hopwood, convicted of killing a Fayette County waitress in 1987 by stabbing her and cutting her throat.

The conviction was overturned because Solomon and Warman withheld evidence from defense attorneys that could have affected the jury's deliberations as to Breakiron's degree of guilt. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.

Judge Nora Barry Fischer ordered a new trial for Breakiron, 47, in the murder of Saundra Marie Martin, 24. She called the evidence against him "unworthy of confidence" because then-District Attorney Solomon withheld evidence from the defense.

Geary cited two other 1982 murder cases in which two first-degree convictions were reversed and new trials granted because of alleged misconduct by Warman and Solomon.

"Rather than being embarrassed by the two very recent reversals, prosecutors Solomon and Warman commenced to engage in even more outrageous misconduct in this case, showing their complete contempt for the law, and for the rights of the accused," Geary wrote.

"The Commonwealth's response? Not a word," he said.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Christopher Carusone said Geary "misconstrued" the state's arguments in the Munchinski case. He said he will answer Geary's accusations in a court filing.

Solomon and Warman did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Geary has charged that Solomon and Warman withheld and tampered with evidence in the prosecution of Munchinski, who was convicted in 1983 of the murders of James Alford and Peter Gierke.

He said they removed portions of witness statements from police reports before they were turned over to defense attorneys in Munchinski's trial. They also allegedly withheld evidence that indicated the only eyewitness to the murders was not even in Pennsylvania at the time.

A judge in 2004 ruled that Solomon and Warman had withheld evidence from Munchinski's defense attorneys, which could have resulted in his acquittal if it had been disclosed at the time.

In his latest filing, Geary contended Munchinski's case "reveals just not extraordinary prosecutorial misconduct but criminal conduct."

Last fall, Geary filed a motion calling for the immediate release of Munchinski, who has been serving consecutive life terms for the slayings.

Geary has been waging a lengthy, relentless legal battle to free Munchinski in a series of appeals in state and federal courts.

He sued Solomon, Warman and other county officials, but that case was dismissed. He appealed that decision, but in February the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal.


Richard Gazarik can be reached at rgazarik@tribweb.com or 724-830-6292.


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