Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Next Step

Harlow Cuadra
Magistrate Tupper has decided to send Harlow Cuadra and Joe Kerekes to trial on various charges. In so doing, he’s come to the outer edge of his power in the system: formally indicting the duo and turning jurisdiction of their case over to the court tier that runs felony trials in Pennsylvania, the Court of Common Pleas.

To do that, Tupper has the County Clerk of Courts exchange paperwork with the DA’s office. The DA eventually hands up what’s called an Information, detailing to the higher court the charges agreed upon by the Magistrate at the end of the Preliminary Hearing.

The prosecutor has the discretion to drop some (or all) of the charges at this point, if he finds them unsupportable at trial. He can even add charges, but will have to immediately support those extra charges before the eventual trial judge.

No Grand Jury will be convened. This is a direct indictment.

Joseph Kerekes

The Defense receives the Information; technically, that receipt constitutes the defendants’ Formal Arraignment*. [See correction at the bottom.]

The trial judge will then declare a period of time during which he or she will entertain pre-trial motions: specific Discovery requests, any motions to suppress improperly acquired evidence, requests to sever the two defendants’ cases, etc. That period is usually 30 days, assuming there are no requests for continuance.

Next stop: the Pre-trial Conference... we’ll detail that when it gets closer.

Correction: In Luzerne county, Formal Arraignments are done before a Common Pleas Court Judge. I didn't know that, as the custom varies from county to county.

From a PA lawyerly website: "The next proceeding is the formal arraignment, which may or may not occur before a judge of the court of common pleas. In most counties, no judge is present. The defendant is provided with a copy of the information and advised of his rights, including his rights to file various pretrial pleadings. Generally, the district attorney is not represented at formal arraignment."