Thursday, March 12, 2009

Harlow Cuadra's Trial... Day 13

4:57 PM: WNEP TV-16 is reporting that the jury in Luzerne County decided Thursday afternoon Harlow Cuadra of Virginia is guilty of first-degree murder and other charges.

It took the jury of eight men and four women about three-and-a-half hours to make a decision. They found Cuadra guilty of 12 charges, most importantly the murder of Bryan Kocis.

The convicted killer had nothing to say on his way out of court, but his mother couldn't be consoled. She prayed in court before the verdict with other family members and then wept when she heard the word 'guilty.'

Cuadra's sentence is now in the hands of that same jury. They will have to decide whether to punish him with a death sentence or life in prison.

The jury will decide the penalty Friday.

There is a gag order in this case which means until the punishement has been decided, no attorneys or jurors can speak about the case.

4:07 PM: The completed verdict slip.

4:01 PM: A court watcher tells me that Harlow didn't say anything in the courtroom at the verdict or after he left.

2:13 PM: The Citizens' Voice is also reporting that Harlow Cuadra was found guilty today of first-degree homicide in Bryan Kocis' 2007 stabbing death.

The jury of eight men and four women unanimously agreed Cuadra killed Kocis after about three-and-a-half hours of deliberation.

Cuadra was found guilty of all of the 12 counts he was charged with, including theft, robbery, arson and abuse of corpse, among others.

Cuadra, wearing a gray suit jacket and pink shirt, stared forward as the jury foreman read the unanimous verdict. Kocis' family hugged.

Jurors will hold a penalty phase hearing tomorrow to determine if Cuadra deserves the death penalty.

2:11 PM: The Times Leader also reports that a Luzerne County jury has found Harlow Cuadra guilty of first degree murder and all 11 other counts. The verdict was just announced.

Cuadra, 27, is accused of killing Bryan Kocis, 44, at Kocis' Dallas Township home in January 2007.

The jury of eight men and four women began deliberating at 10:30 this morning and took less than four hours to reach the verdict.

Because it's a capital murder case, the jury will now have to decide whether Cuadra should be sentenced to life in prison or death.

2:09 PM: GUILTY 1st degree murder, guilty on all charges.

2:06 PM: The Times Leader reports that a verdict has been reached in the capital murder case of Harlow Cuadra. The jury is assembling into the courtroom.

2:03 PM: I'm hearing there may be a verdict.

12:42 PM: The Citizens' Voice reports that jurors returned to the courtroom at 12:17 p.m. to ask Judge Peter Paul Olszewksi Jr. about first-degree homicide charges.

The jury asked Olszewski if they could convict Harlow Cuadra of first-degree homicide if he was an accomplice and didn't actually slit Bryan Kocis' throat.

Olszewski reread first-degree homicide statue to the jury, which says a defendant can be found guilty of first-degree murder, when he did not cause the murder directly, if he was an accomplice in the murder.

The jury had no more questions and returned to deliberate.

12:40 PM: The Times Leader is reporting that Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. re-read instructions on first-degree homicide to the jury.

The jury asked the question: "Can we convict on first degree murder if we don't believe Harlow Cuadra slit Bryan Kocis' throat. Can you explain?"

Olszewski assembled the jury in the courtroom and explained the requirements for a verdict on first-degree homicide

10:42 AM: According to the Citizens' Voice, Harlow Cuadra’s fate is now in the hands of the jury.

The eight men and four women left the courtroom at 10:27 this morning to begin deliberating. County Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. read their instructions for more than an hour and 30 minutes this morning. Olszewski, a judge for nine years and a former district attorney and litigator, told jurors “these are the longest instructions I've ever heard given to a jury.”

Cuadra, 27, is accused of killing Bryan Kocis and setting fire to his Dallas Township home in January 2007. He faces twelve different criminal charges, including:

an open count of homicide
four counts of criminal conspiracy
two counts of arson
tampering with evidence
abuse of corpse
criminal use of a communications facility

Olszewski advised jurors Cuadra can be found guilty of homicide in this case if they believe he killed Kocis, was an accomplice to Kocis’ homicide or was a part of a conspiracy that planned to kill Kocis.

Cuadra could face the death penalty if found guilty of first-degree homicide. Jurors would convene later for a penalty phase, to weigh aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances against Cuadra. Jurors have to unanimously choose the death penalty.

8:26 AM: Today is day thirteen of Harlow Cuadra's capital murder trial. Judge Olszewski is expected to instruct the jurors on definitions of the crimes and reasonable doubt this morning. That process should take approximately two hours. Once the jury is charged, they will begin deliberating behind closed doors. Stay tuned for further updates throughout the day.