Friday, August 15, 2008

Kocis Case May See Infirmity Defense

The Times Leader reports that attorneys for homicide suspects Harlow Cuadra and Joseph Kerekes are expected to mount a mental-infirmity defense if they are convicted in the January 2007 slaying of gay pornographic film producer Bryan Kocis.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the two Virginia Beach, Va., men because Kocis, 44, was killed during the commission of a felony -- robbery, one of 18 aggravating factors required for capital punishment, according to the state’s crimes code.

A mental-infirmity defense during the death penalty phase is one of several mitigating circumstances that counters the aggravating factors.

Attorneys for the two men, as required by law, advised prosecutors that they intend to present evidence of mental infirmity.

In turn, prosecutors were permitted by Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. on Thursday to have Cuadra, 27, and Kerekes, 34, submit to an independent psychiatric evaluation.

Prosecutors were instructed to submit their mental evaluations that are to be sealed by Dec. 1.

If a jury convicts the two men, the trial moves to the death penalty phase where prosecutors can present their mental evaluation findings.

Their trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection on Jan. 5.

Prosecutors claim in court records that Cuadra and Kerekes killed Kocis, whom they considered their main rival in the gay movie industry.

Kocis’ body was found inside his Dallas Township home on Jan. 24, 2007, by firefighters who responded to a fire at his Midland Drive residence.

Olszewski is expected to file his rulings next week that determines if Cuadra and Kerekes will have separate trials, if the trials are held in Luzerne County or a jury from another county is brought in, and if prosecutors can use recorded conversations that allegedly implicates the two men in Kocis’ killing.
Note from PC: Additional information about an infirmity defense can be found in 234 Pa. Code Rule 568 and 569.