What put 18-month-old Delorian Davis into an irreversible coma is beyond doubt.
Two men -- Carlos Colon, 46, and Thomas Reyes, 43 – are each serving 26- to 52-year prison terms for plowing into a group of people on a North Philadelphia sidewalk in a stolen SUV, disabling Davis and killing her 4-year-old sister Lucretia.
What caused Delorian’s death almost 20 years later remains an open question. But whatever killed her on Jan. 10, 2013, a Philadelphia judge has ruled, it is not enough to now retry Colon and Reyes for murder.
The threat of terrorism has forced most of us to change our routines, whether we’re entering a public building, boarding a commercial flight or attending a professional football game.
Now add thieves to the list of people who should consider adjusting their work practices to cope with the war on terror.
Consider the cases of Stephan Williams and John Ploucher, two men from Bridesburg in Northeast Philadelphia accused of stealing propane gas canisters – 30 to 40 of them – in December from two Northeast industrial properties.
Pennsylvania’s death penalty remains on the books although just three men have been executed since capital punishment was reenacted 38 years ago, the last in 1999.
Nor do juries in Pennsylvania’s 67 counties seem especially eager to condemn fellow citizens to death. In 2015, for example, juries in just three counties – Bucks, Monroe and Washington – imposed death sentences, the same number as in 2014. Over the last decade, the number of death sentences by Pennsylvania juries has been in a general decline from a high of nine in 2005.
The downward trend in Pennsylvania mirrors what is happening nationwide, where death sentences have declined from 140 in 2005 to 73 in 2014, according to the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center.
After six postponements, former Roman Catholic priest James J. Brennan has a new retrial date – Oct. 24 – on the 2011 charges of attempted rape of a 14-year-old boy in 1996.
The new trial date was agreed on Monday by Assistant District Attorney Meghan Goddard and defense lawyer William J. Brennan [not related to his client], working with courtroom staff for Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright.
Some 3-1/2 years have passed since June 22, 2012, when a Philadelphia jury announced it could not reach a verdict in the case against the 52-year-old. This time, a seventh date may be the charm: Bright ordered Brennan – a busy, high-profile criminal defense lawyer -- and Goddard attached for trial. That means that the judge has dibs on Goddard’s and Brennan’s time for what is estimated will be a three-day jury trial.
Almost 3-1/2 years after a Philadelphia jury said it could not reach a verdict in the sex-assault trial of former Catholic priest James J. Brennan, the retrial of the 52-year-old has been put off again.
Again, as in the sixth time since June 22, 2012, when a Common Pleas Court jury hung. On Friday, Assistant District Attorney Meghan Goddard and defense lawyer William J. Brennan – not related to his client – met with Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright and decided that Jan. 4 would no longer work for what is estimated to be a three-day jury trial. Instead, the parties will meet on Jan. 4 and decide on a new trial date.
No legal issues or problems caused the delay, just the usual scheduling conflicts.
In just two days this week at Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center, there were three cases of fratricide: brother killing brother.
On Monday, there was the case of Robert A. Young, 57, who pleaded guilty to third-degree murder for shooting and killing his 62-year-old brother Allen Young after what the prosecutor said was an argument over food.
The July 12, 2014 murder occurred about 2-1/2 months after Allen was paroled to Robert’s Oxford Circle house after serving about 30 years in state prisons for third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and aggravated assault.
To recast the old saying: You can grant a witness immunity from prosecution but you can’t make him testify.
Case in point: Gabriel Ortega, 24, witness to the Sept. 24, 2014 midday murder of 30-year-old Rafael Cruz Morales as he sat in his car at American and Cambria Streets in Fairhill. Ortega, a passenger in Morales’ car, was wounded as well.
The next day, Ortega gave a statement to Philadelphia Police homicide detectives. From a photo array, Ortega identified Charles Wheeler, 29, whom he said he knew by the street name “Jeff,” as the man who got out of a black Nissan Altima and started shooting at Morales and him.
Closure is overrated.
That’s one conclusion after 13 days of the criminal trial involving the 2013 building collapse that crushed the Salvation Army thrift store at 22d and Market Street, killing six and injuring 13.
There was a lots of anger, pain and sadness to go around but not much closure for anyone.