Saturday, November 24, 2007

D.A.: Get Cuadra Outside Counsel

Harlow Cuadra

The Times Leader reports: Prosecutors say public defenders should not be representing homicide suspect Harlow Cuadra.

The Luzerne County prosecutors say a conflict of interest exists with public defenders representing Cuadra because two public defenders previously represented the victim in the case, and now those two public defenders might be called to testify at Cuadra’s homicide trial.

The prosecutors want a judge to postpone all matters in the homicide case until attorneys from outside the public defender’s office are appointed to represent him.

Public defenders had been representing Cuadra and Kerekes. But Kerekes was later appointed public attorneys from outside the public defender’s office.

That came after a public defender, attorney Jonathan Blum, made the request. Blum said a conflict existed with public defenders representing both men because the men, at trial, could accuse the other as the principal killer.

Also, Blum and attorney Al Flora Jr., the county’s first assistant public defender, had represented Kocis in the past and might be witnesses at the homicide trial.

But Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark Ciavarella only appointed outside counsel to Kerekes.

The latest request to have attorneys from outside the public defender’s office represent Cuadra came this week by assistant district attorneys Mike Melnick, Tim Doherty, Shannon Crake and William Dunn.

They, too, said outside attorneys should be appointed to Cuadra because Blum and Flora represented Kocis in the past and are now potential witnesses in the homicide case.

Flora was interviewed by police in the homicide investigation and gave them information that was “relevant and material,” the prosecutors said.

Prosecutors say they want to ensure Cuadra “receives a fair and impartial trial.”

Ciavarella previously appointed attorneys John Pike, Mark Bufalino and Shelley Centini to defend Kerekes.

They are attorneys on the county payroll and not associated with the public defender’s office, and are provided to indigent defendants who have a conflict of interest with the public defenders.