Q: At what point does the DA usually announce whether he'll seek the death penalty?
A: Out of this hearing, the Magistrate will decide what charges have been supported by prima facie. If Premeditated Murder is one of those supported charges, then the DA can announce his plans vis a vis the Death Penalty at anytime after that-- it's a strategic thing.
Q: ...is the kingston township court the same as luzerne county court?
A: Not exactly. The Magistrate in Kingston will decide at the end of the prelim whether or not the case shall proceed to the PA Court of Common Pleas (where the trial would take place). A trial judge would then be assigned.
Q: I'm sure the defense would have liked to object [to Hainsely's testimony] (and probably did), but the fact it got in during this prelim tells me it was and will be admissible. [Right?]
A: Different judges may decide differently; the trial judge could easily toss out Hainsley's testimony if he thinks it's hearsay. Remember, a Magistrate in PA is terribly minor functionary. As I said once before, he literallly handles cases of spitting on the sidewalk. (I saw a friend ticketed for that once. The ticket was a Magistrate's summons. No fooling.) He generally does not put boldly put his stamp on a case. That's what Common Pleas judges are for.
Q: ...[with] no hope for acquittal. Their attorney might try to convience them [not to plead guilty. Am I correct?]
A: More often it's the other way around: counsel says plead out, but the defendant refuses.