Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Harlow Cuadra's Trial... Day 12

5:53 PM: Another court watcher tells me that Harlow's testimony yesterday was "so animated" ... when he described the 'rapid knock' on the door, "Cuadra actually leaned the microphone down, and started tapping on the wooden table as a sound effect".

5:32 PM: A court watcher tells me that Harlow Cuadra has four family members present for the trial... his mother and her new husband, sister, and one of his brothers. I'm also told that 'Gladys has accepted the fact that her son (Harlow) was involved in the murder'.

5:19 PM: The Citizens' Voice reports that both defense and prosecution attorneys concluded their closing arguments and county Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. told jurors to return Thursday morning to begin deliberations in Harlow Cuadra's capital homicide trial.

Reading the charges Cuadra faces to the jury will take about two hours. Then jurors will decide if Cuadra is guilty of first-degree homicide among other charges. If found guilty, jurors would have to consider giving Cuadra the death penalty.

4:52 PM: The Times Leader reports that during the investigation, Melnick said authorities discovered Cuadra and Kerekes purchased lighter fluid, a lighter, condoms and other items at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Wilkes-Barre Township on Jan. 24, 2007.

"(Cuadra) doesn't smoke, nor does Kerekes but their buying lighter fluid in the dead of a Pennsylvania winter," Melnick said.

D'Andrea and Melnick spent about an hour each to give their closing arguments to the jury.

Olszewski is expected Thursday morning to charge the jury, meaning, instructing the jurors on definitions of the crimes and reasonable doubt. That process should take approximately two hours.

Once the jury is charged, they will begin deliberating behind closed doors.

3:38 PM: The Times Leader is reporting that Attorney Joseph D'Andrea said Harlow Cuadra didn't have the strength to kill Bryan Kocis.

D'Andrea made the statement during his closing argument to the Luzerne County jury in Cuadra's capital murder trial before Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr.

"A mystery remains, who is Bryan Kocis' killer?" D'Andrea asked the jury.

For nearly one hour during his argument, D'Andrea said the killer wasn't Cuadra but Cuadra's former lover Joseph Kerekes, who pleaded guilty in December to second-degree murder.

"Motive, money, Kerekes," D'Andrea said several times.

Investigators alleged Cuadra and Kerekes killed Kocis, whom they considered thier main rival in the adult film production industry, and wanted to work with adult film actor Sean Lockhart, who was under contract for Kocis' company Cobra Video.

Kocis' body was found inside his Midland Drive, Dallas Township, home on Jan. 24, 2007.

Kerekes "relentless" pursued Lockhart to film movies with Cuadra, but found a problem with the contract Lockhart had with Kocis, D'Andrea said.

"Joe Kerekes wanted Sean Lockhart; only one problem, Bryan Kocis," D'Andrea said.

D'Andrea said Cuadra was not strong enough to overpower and kill Kocis, adding Kerekes is much stronger and bigger.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Melnick has begun his opening argument to the jury.

"One thing I would agree with Harlow Cuadra, Joseph Kerekes is a murderer but Joseph Kerekes isn't in trial. This wasn't a solo act," Melnick said.

Melnick said Cuadra played a "predominant role in this homicide."

2:07 PM: Sources tell me that the attorneys and judge are still not back in the courtroom, unsure what the legal issue is that's being discussed.

11:48 AM: Sources tell me that Joe had $300 deposited in to his canteen (so that he could buy a TV), in order for him to agree to testify... looks like the defense lost that money.

11:08 AM: The Citizens' Voice is reporting that testimony concluded this morning in Harlow Cuadra's capital homicide trial.

Attorneys have to review a legal issue before closing arguments later this afternoon, County Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. said.

Cuadra, 27, could face the death penalty if found guilty of first-degree homicide in Bryan Kocis' Jan. 24, 2007, stabbing death. Cuadra denied any involvement in the homicide during cross-examination this morning.

For two hours today, lead prosecutor Michael Melnick reviewed statements Cuadra made during testimony Tuesday and comments he made in wiretapped conversations the police previously played for jurors.

"I regret making those statements, but it’s not true," Cuadra said, beginning to cry. "I was under a lot of stress. He played with me. It’s not true. It’s not true."

Cuadra stuck to his story that his former partner, Joseph Kerekes, stabbed Kocis in a jealous rage. Kerekes, 35, pleaded guilty to second-degree homicide in December. Although defense attorneys called him as a witness, Kerekes refused to testify Tuesday.

“He pleaded guilty to murder," Cuadra said. "I did not. For two years, I have held on to my innocence."

Melnick asked Cuadra about taped phone conversations he had while in jail.

“You never said Joseph Kerekes killed Bryan Kocis," Melnick said.

“No. Sir (Kerekes) wouldn’t let me.”

Despite Cuadra's repeated denials, Melnick insisted Cuadra's story of the murder didn't match prosecution evidence. Cuadra testified Tuesday that Kerekes stormed in Kocis' home unannounced and slit Kocis' throat after a fight.

“Mr. Cuadra, your goal was to annihilate and obliterate your chief rival,” Melnick said.

“No, and once again, out of 90 people who have taken the stand, you’re the only who is saying that. Your statements are not fact,” Cuadra said.

10:48 AM: According to the Times Leader, testimony has ended in the capital murder case of Harlow Cuadra.

Cuadra, 27, was the only witness to testify in his defense. His testimony concluded Wednesday morning, the 12th day of his trial before a Luzerne County jury.

Prosecutors used 10 days to present 86 witnesses to show the jury that Cuadra killed Bryan Kocis inside Kocis' Dallas Township home on Jan. 24, 2007.

Investigators alleged Cuadra and Joseph Kerekes, 35, killed Kocis, whom they considered their main rival in the adult film production industry, and wanted to work with Sean Lockhart, a gay adult film actor under contract for Kocis' company, Cobra Video.

Kerekes pleaded guilty in December to second degree murder and is serving life in prison without parole.

Throughout his testimony, Cuadra said his lover, Kerekes, controlled his life. He told the jury that Kerekes stormed into Kocis' home and slashed Kocis' throat.

Cuadra said he didn't see Kerekes set Kocis' Midland Drive home on fire.

Cuadra explained his relationship with Kerekes as playing the "spouse" role, telling the jury that Kerekes used his passwords and e-mail log-ins to send e-mails to friends and escort clients.

The two men, prosecutors said, operated a male escort business and a gay adult film Web site at their Virginia Beach, Va., home.

Cuadra frequently confronted Assistant District Attorney Michael Melnick, informing Melnick that out of the 86 witnesses called to testify, only Melnick called him a "murderer."

Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. is expected to meet with prosecutors and Cuadra's lawyers before the parties give closing arguments to the jury.

8:29 AM: Harlow Cuadra's twelfth day of trial is scheduled to begin at any minute now. The prosecution is expected to continue its cross-examination on Cuadra this morning, and then we still may hear testimony from Renee Martin. Closing arguments are expected later today. Stay tuned for further updates throughout the day.