Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Today's Hearing

The Pretrial Hearing for Harlow Cuadra and Joseph Kerekes was held in Courtroom #2, on the third floor of the Luzerne County Courthouse.

I arrived at 8:22 AM... the following is a timeline of events:

8:22 AM: Harlow Cuadra is already seated on the right-hand side of the courtroom, wearing a tan/beige jumpsuit. He was also wearing handcuffs and leg-irons. He was sitting alone, basically staring at the front of the room. Harlow's hair appeared a little unkempt, and looks a bit pale.

8:24 AM: Joseph Kerekes is led in with two other inmates. All are wearing green jumpsuits, and Joe has his hands cuffed and is wearing leg irons. The first thing I noticed was how gray Joe's hair has gotten, and that he's balding. Harlow did briefly look over at Joe while he was being brought in.

8:25 AM: Joe is seated on the left-side of the courtroom, and begins chatting with one of the sheriffs, while Harlow remains quiet.

8:26 AM: So far, I'm the only spectator in the courtroom, and Joe stares over at me several times, with a puzzled look in his eyes.

8:31 AM: A large video screen is erected to the right of the courtroom, about 10 feet to the right of Harlow. It appears that there may be a slide presentation.

8:32 AM: Several of Harlow and Joe's lawyers enter the courtroom.

8:33 AM: Fred Kerekes enters the courtroom and sits one bench in front of me, on Harlow's side. He's wearing a hat that says Jesus on the front with Harlow's name on the left side, and Joseph's name on the right. At the same time, Bryan's father, mother, sister, and brother-in-law enter, are shown were they'll be sitting, and then leave. They'll be sitting on Joe's side, 2 rows back. (The first 2 rows are closed to only court employees).

8:35 AM: Judge PPO enters the courtroom - there's a short sentencing hearing for the 2 other inmates that came in with Joe.

8:40 AM: Two other people enter the courtroom. I believe they are Harlow's court liaisons.

8:44 AM: Another one of Harlow's attorney's enters the courtroom and briefly greets Harlow before leaving.

8:46 AM: Several other people enter the courtroom, they all sit towards the back. Most look like local media.

8:50 AM: Joe is led out of the courtroom, reason unknown. (probably a bathroom break), he returns about 2 minutes later.

8:55 AM: The previous hearings are adjourned and PPO states that he'll return at 9:00 AM.

8:55 AM: Bryan's family returns to the courtroom and take their seats.

8:57 AM: More attorneys from the DA's office arrive with two large boxes of paperwork.

8:58 AM: Another of Kerekes' attorneys arrive, and the DA's and attorneys stand around and converse with each other.

8:59 AM: Melnick arrives and chats with the other DA's.

9:04 AM: Hearing Begins.

9:05 AM: Kerekes' lawyers request that the trial be moved to a different county, or a jury be brought in from another county. PPO scolds DA Melnick for filing transcripts in a way that they could be made public, and that it may endanger the defendant's' rights of trial. PPO says he'll rule at a later date. Attorney's for Kerekes' also complain about the phone conversations with Renee Martin mentioned in today's Citizens' Voice.

9:13 AM: Motion in Limeine-Photographs. Defense attorneys want several photos denied, so all of the attorneys get together and review them all.

9:14 AM: Bryan's family leaves the courtroom.

9:15 AM: Photos the defense objects to:

Photo 1 & 2: Charred body on couch - 1 is a full body shot in color; 2 is a full body shot in a different angle in B&W "to show more of the body". #2 is excluded, and #1 is approved.

Photo 3 & 4: Depict the neck wound. DA states that both pictures would prove the blow went from one end to the other, nearly decapitating the head. PPO allows both to be used.

Photo 5: Torso stab wounds which shows abuse of a corpse are approved.

Photo 6: Shows couch with body removed, couch is shown charred and bloody, with a blood stained sheet. PPO allows.

Photo 7 & 8: Autopsy photos, 2 different angles. PPO postpones judgement on #7, and excludes #8.

Photo 9-12: 9 is a picture of the injury to the victims neck, 10 is a picture that includes the victims face. #10 is withdrawn, #4 is withdrawn and replaced with #11, #12 is withdrawn, #9 PPO has withheld ruling, #11 is approved.

Photo 13 & 14: Puncture wounds to the heart and lungs - both approved.
Photo 15: Withdrawn

Photo 16 & 17: Shows wounds to groin area, showing his charred genitalia. Reserved, PPO requests that the DA's office submit B&W's for consideration.

All other photos are approved.

9:40 AM: Kerekes' motion to not include his past criminal record was denied. Kerekes' attorneys argued that he had no previous criminal record, yet it was still denied.

9:43 AM: Kerekes's motion to quash and dismiss information was denied.

10:00 AM: Motion for Severence - PPO chews out Kerekes' and Cuadra's attorneys for not being ready to answer his questions of why certain evidence should be redacted. PPO orders a 30 minute recess at 10:15 so that Cuadra's attorneys can answer his questions. Prior to the recess, the room was almost filled to capacity.

10:27 AM: Recess continues. Melnick and a female DA are still in the courtroom. Joe is reading some documents, and so is Harlow. There is one police officer and 2 sheriff guards still in the courtroom.

10:44 AM: During the recess, Harlow's liaisons asks to speak to Cuadra. She is told that she can't speak to him without one of his attorneys present.

10:57 AM: Folks begin to re-enter the courtroom, it appears that the recess is going to last a little longer than expected.

11:15 AM: DA & Attorneys arrive back in the courtroom.

11:18 AM: PPO allows each side (Harlow & Joe) to argue why the case should be separated. Kerekes' attorneys argue that the statements made in the BBT's: "my guy" and "that guy", and "my dude" do not mention Kerekes as being the individual... so the theory is speculative.

The DA responds that the BBT's should be noted, and that the conversation the day before at the Crab Catchers Restaurant includes 4 references to Joe offering Sean and Grant 'under the table payments' being made to Sean and Grant, so that they won't have to pay 20% that would be owed to Cobra Video due to the settlement agreement.

Kerekes' attorneys also try to point-out that it was Cuadra's name that was involved in most of the DA's evidence, the background check, credit card used to buy the knife and gun in Virginia Beach, the rental car, background check, etc... PPO asks if Kerekes may attempt to exonerate himself at the expense of Cuadra. Kerekes' attorneys' have said that there's a chance that could happen, but that they're not prepared to answer. PPO says that Kerekes' attorneys need to come up with some kind of answer or he'll simply have to deny the motion. The DA then states that Harlow and Joe have chosen a "plan B" during a 3-way call, and that they are on the "Plan B Express", and that both conspired to murder Kocis. Cuadra's attorneys state that there's also hostility from Harlow towards Joe, at which time Joe quickly turned and gave Harlow a 'hard' look.

12:24 PM: Break for lunch.

1:10 PM: Harlow is escorted back to the courtroom in handcuffs and shackles, I'm assuming he was returning from lunch. Joe was already seated in the courtroom.

1:30 PM: Still waiting for the hearing to resume, Harlow's been talking with his liaison, actually laughing and smiling at times, meanwhile Joe is sitting with Shelly Centinni.

1:50 PM: Hearing Begins.

2:00 PM: Attorney Mark Bufalino, one of three lawyers representing Kerekes, informed Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. that he works in the same law firm as Attorney Paul Galante, who is one of three lawyers representing Cuadra. Aparently Bufalino represented Rodden a year ago, and felt that there would conflict of interest. Once PPO was made aware of this, he asked both attorneys why they didn't know this conflict existed when they were hired, as it was apparently several months (or more) before-hand. PPO has stated that both attorneys must have an answer/fix by 8:00 AM, the hearing is scheduled to resume tomorrow at 8:30 AM.