Thursday, July 10, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Monday, May 26, 2014, 4:53 PM

Last Wednesday, 92 people were summoned to appear in Philadelphia’s revived Juror Scofflaw Court to explain why they had not reported two or more times when called for jury duty. It’s a problem that Philadelphia court officials say has reached a crisis point: of almost 700,000 to be called for jury duty this year, only about 13 percent will show up.

Probably the best illustration of the problem is that a third of those ordered to appear in scofflaw court – you guessed it – did not show up. Warrants for their arrest have been issued and when they next appear, in custody, they could be fined up to $500 and spend up to 10 days in jail for contempt of court. Court officials hope the revival of a tactic last used 14 years ago, will encourage people to recognize that reporting for jury duty is not just their duty as U.S. citizens but in their best interest.

Of course, some people don’t need an arrest warrant. They were lauded May 15 during a “Juror Appreciation Day” by former Governor Edward G. Rendell; Philadelphia Municipal Court President Judge Marsha H. Neifield; Common Pleas Court President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper; several other judges and members of various legal organizations.

Joe Slobodzian @ 4:53 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 11:09 AM
The Rev. Andrew McCormick gets into a car outside the center for criminal justice Thursday, March 6, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP)

With two weeks to go before the judge’s deadline, the Rev. Andrew McCormick has found a new lawyer to represent him in his retrial on charges he sexually assaulted a 10-year-old altar boy in 1997 when he was at St. John Cantius church in Bridesburg.

Center City criminal defense lawyer Trevan Borum confirmed Wednesday that he will represent McCormick, 58, in the retrial. Borum said he will formally enter his appearance at a May 29 status hearing on the case before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright.

If Borum’s name is familiar to some, it may be because he had been hired by retired Catholic priest Robert Brennan. Brennan, 76, was charged with raping a boy from ages 11 to 14 who was a member of the “altar guild” at the Resurrection of Our Lord parish school in Rhawnhurst. The criminal charges were dismissed after the 26-year-old alleged victim died of an accidental drug overdose on Oct. 13.

Joe Slobodzian @ 11:09 AM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 4:35 PM

It’s not clear where or when Antorie Coates and Alida Maria Cruz were shot to death or if anyone saw William Deputy do it.

But Deputy is on the hook for it, courtesy of several security cameras that allegedly show Deputy, 36, pouring gasoline into a Ford Windstar van parked in the 2200 block of Orthodox Street in East Frankford in the predawn hours of Feb. 22. When firefighters extinguished the blaze, they found the charred bodies of Coates, 35, and Cruz, 30, inside.

That was enough for Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Karen Y. Simmons, who on Wednesday held Deputy for trial on two counts of murder, arson and related charges.

Joe Slobodzian @ 4:35 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 4:05 PM

No question but that Catholic priest Andrew McCormick had one of the region’s most respected criminal defense lawyers for his trial in March for allegedly sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy in 1997 at St. John Cantius church in Bridesburg.

Now, more than a month after the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury deadlocked in its deliberations, it seems lawyer William J. Brennan Jr. may be irreplaceable.

On Monday, McCormick, 57, was supposed to tell Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright the name of the lawyer who will represent him in the retrial. Instead, McCormick told the judge he was still lawyer-less although the reasons why were not explained.

Joe Slobodzian @ 4:05 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Friday, April 25, 2014, 3:30 PM

The Internet and social media have been around for some time now but that doesn’t mean there aren’t newly discovered hazards on the electronic frontier.

Consider the American Bar Association, which on Thursday issued “Formal Opinion 466” – guidance for lawyers about reviewing the “Internet Presence” of jurors or potential jurors.

Sit through any trial these days and you’ll likely hear the judge warn jurors to avoid the Internet as well as newspapers and television and radio news during the trial. The reason is that jurors are supposed to base their verdict only on evidence presented under oath in a courtroom, not the media -- traditional or otherwise. Jurors have always been told not to visit the scene of a crime or do their own investigating, but Google and other search engines have become a powerful temptation. Some jurors have been dismissed from trials because they’ve been commenting on the experience online.

Joe Slobodzian @ 3:30 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Friday, April 18, 2014, 2:35 PM

After serving 15 years of life sentences for the 1995 robbery-murder of a North Philadelphia businessman, Eugene Gilyard and Lance Felder have had five months of freedom to reconnect with family, return to the work force and learn about technology and gadgets that weren’t around when they went to prison as teenagers.

Still, the possibility that freedom could end remains ever present as the District Attorney’s office considers whether to give the men the new trial ordered by a Philadelphia judge or dismiss charges altogether.

On Thursday, Common Pleas Court Judge Rose Marie DeFino-Nastasi granted the prosecutors’ request for more time to investigate the pair’s claims of “actual innocence” and set June 18 for the next status hearing for the case. There are signs, however, that the judge’s patience is wearing and, according to the Pennsylvania Innocence Project’s legal director, Marissa Bluestine, DeFino-Nastasi said she might soon set a trial date and handle the retrial herself.

Joe Slobodzian @ 2:35 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 4:07 PM

Ex-bartender John McLaughlin’s hopes of a reprieve from his life prison sentence have been dealt a setback by Pennsylvania’s Superior Court.

The mid-level appeals court on Tuesday rejected McLaughlin’s appeal of his first-degree murder conviction for the 2008 baseball bat beating of bartender Seamus O’Neill during an early-morning argument at McWhitey’s, McLaughlin’s Port Richmond pub.

The three-judge appeals panel wrote that McLaughlin failed to raise most of his appeal issues before the Philadelphia trial judge and thus waived them before Superior Court. As for McLaughlin’s main claim – the guilty verdict was not supported by the weight of the evidence – the Superior Court judges ruled that their review was limited to whether the trial judge abused his discretion to examine whether the verdict was at variance with evidence.

Joe Slobodzian @ 4:07 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Monday, March 31, 2014, 2:17 PM

You’d be forgiven for not remembering 10-year-old Charlenni Ferreira.

After all, it’s been 4-1/2 years since the Feltonville fifth grader died in what investigators called one of the worst cases of child abuse they’d ever seen. Too many other child-abuse cases have since competed for that title.

You’d also be forgiven for not recalling who was convicted in Charlenni’s death: no one.

Joe Slobodzian @ 2:17 PM  Permalink | 0
About this blog
Inquirer reporter Joe Slobodzian covers the courts and writes about the people who find themselves there and what they face.

You can reach Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com. Reach Joseph A. at jslobodzian@phillynews.com.

Joseph A. Slobodzian
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