Friday, August 10, 2007

Out Of State, Not Out of Reach

A question has been spit out of the Comments section like a watermelon seed: can the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania force out-of-state witnesses (like Sean and Grant) to come testify in lovely Luzerne county for Harlow Cuadra & Joe Kerekes' murder trial?

For criminal cases, all state governments have agreements that may make subpoenas for appearances binding on residents. In California , the Pennsylvania court must certify to the local courts that a person in California is a material witness in a criminal case. The California court then holds a hearing to determine if the subpoenaed person is a material witness and that the witness will not suffer an undue hardship by appearing in the out-of-state court.

Undue Hardship in California basically means the person must be very ill or in the hospital, 65 years of age or older, a dependent adult, or his life is in jeopardy. If the witness meets any of these criteria, he may apply for an order that the witness be examined conditionally, meaning in California . Prosecutors from Pennsylvania can ask for that, too.

It's unlikely California would reject PA's request, since judges do realize that, while today Pennsylvania might be the ones who've come a-calling for a recalcitrant Californian witness, on another day California will certainly go a-courting in PA, looking for one of their timorous witnesses. It's rather like extradition: if one state denies another today, tomorrow they might well find themselves denied-- oftentimes out of spite. Funny how the grand, legal patriarchs of the several states are a lot like kindergartners isn't it?

-Both PC and KM contributed to this story.