Saturday, September 8, 2007

Mutual Antipathy

Luzerne County Courthouse The luck of the draw may have handed Harlow Cuadra and Joe Kerekes a potent hole-card in their upcoming trial for the murder of Bryan Kocis: the strained relationship between the judge and the Luzerne County DA's office.

Common Pleas Court Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. is slated to preside over Cuadra’s and Kerekes formal arraignment in October. That means he’s likely to be the trial judge for the entire case.

And plenty of court observers intimate that Judge Olszewski has a problem with the Luzerne County DA’s office, not to mention with DA David Lupas (seen below) himself-- and vice versa. That may or may not be so, but nearly everyone in the courthouse can agree that the Judge and the District Attorney have been sharply at odds since at least 2003.

The fierce animus stems from the capital murder case of one Hugo Selenski .

Early in that case, Olszewski threw out Escape charges because the DA's office missed a deadline for including them in the indictment. Then came a ruling by Olszewski on a statement by Selenski that police said confirmed Selenski’s guilt. Suffice to say, there were Miranda issues, the statement got tossed, and the DA’s office chose to appeal the exclusion, mid-trial.

Prosecutors lost that appeal, Selenski was acquitted of murder charges, and the fight was on. It’s a battle that’s been quietly going on ever since.

Understand, these guys are all lawyers, so no one in either camp is accusing anyone else of misconduct, but it is clear that these two people really don’t like one another. Just how that palpable dislike plays out in court in the Kocis case is anyone’s guess, but it can't be bad news for Harlow and Joe.