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.
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.
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.
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.
Two months after a Philadelphia jury deadlocked on the question of whether to find Daniel Soler guilty of first-degree murder in the 2012 killing of ex-girlfriend Tinesha Carr – but convicted him of five other charges – the West Philadelphia man’s immediate future is settled.
On Friday, the District Attorney’s office told Common Pleas Court Judge Glenn B. Bronson it would not retry Soler on the first-degree murder count and agreed that he should be sentenced on the other charges: third-degree murder, two firearms counts and two arson counts.
Stacking the sentences on top of each other, Bronson’s sentence means Soler will spend 45 to 90 years in prison. It's not the mandatory life sentence required if Soler had been convicted of first-degree murder but the 33-year-old Soler may not notice the difference.
Inside Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center, they’ve become as ubiquitous as the sidewalk memorials of flowers and stuffed toys for people killed in shootings and auto accidents. They are T-shirts, usually emblazoned with the photo of a crime victim and slogans urging remembrance of or “justice for.”
Now, apparently worried about the impact the T-shirts could have on criminal juries, some Philadelphia judges have begun banning them from the courtroom.
It happened during the current trial of accused Catholic priest Andrew McCormick. This time, however, it was supporters of the 57-year-old priest who got the warning. On Feb. 27, the first day of McCormick’s trial for allegedly sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy in 1997, several of McCormick’s friends came to the 11th-floor courtroom wearing black T-shirts covered with white stylized letters reading “I stand with Father Andy.”
O.J. Simpson had the bloody glove and defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran’s famous challenge to the jury: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
In the ongoing sexual assault trial of Catholic priest Andrew McCormick, the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury of nine women and three women is now pondering “the tighty whitey defense.”
McCormick, 57, a 32-year veteran priest in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is accused of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy in 1997 after he allegedly invited the boy to his private rooms on the second floor of the rectory at the St. John Cantius parish in Bridesburg.
Two Philadelphia Common Pleas Court juries last week passed on imposing the death penalty in two homicide trials.
On Friday, a jury sentenced Fernando Real, 31, to life in prison without chance of parole after finding him guilty of two counts of first-degree murder for a double slaying in 2002 in Frankford.
Real was convicted of the Sept. 9 shootings of Byron Story and Marcus Herbert, both 18, in what police called a drug-related robbery-murder. Both teens were shot about 4:30 a.m. outside Herbert’s home in the 5200 block of Hawthorne Street. Story was shot in the head and died on the sidewalk; Herbert was shot twice in the back and died 13 months later.