Courtroom bickering follows jury decision in Steelers player stabbing
Judge calls attorneys to court
May 2, 2014 3:38 PM
A jury found Dquay Means, Michael Paranay and Jerrell Whitlock not guilty in the June 1, 2013, stabbing of Steelers offensive lineman Mike Adams.
By Paula Reed Ward / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A hearing Friday to discuss bail for one of the men accused of stabbing Steelers offensive lineman Mike Adams evolved into the judge questioning why Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. was publicly questioning how the trial was handled.
In the end, it was little more than bluster and an instruction -- at least in theory -- for all parties involved to stop talking pending the sentencing of two defendants on minor charges related to escape and fleeing.
Dquay Means, Jerrell Whitlock and Michael Paranay were all found not guilty by a jury on Wednesday for the June 1 attack on the South Side.
On Thursday, Mr. Zappala said he wondered why a two-day trial took seven days, how the defense found one of its witnesses and questioned Common Pleas Judge Anthony M. Mariani's general handling of the case.
"I didn't see Mr. Zappala in the room at all during this trial," Judge Mariani said, questioning where his information came from.
He asked first deputy district attorney Rebecca Spangler for details of Mr. Zappala's criticism -- she said the DA was out of town Friday and couldn't appear -- but he never gave her the chance to answer.
Instead, Judge Mariani continued talking about how the trial proceeded -- noting that the attorneys knew the trial would last at least three days or more prior to it starting, and that the defense presented information about the witness in question also before the trial started.
The judge said he doesn't object to the criticism but that he feared it would interfere with the due process rights of Mr. Means and Mr. Whitlock, who still must be sentenced.
"We have professional disagreements," Judge Mariani said. "But we have them at the right time."
Ms. Spangler did tell the court that Mr. Zappala did not make the first comments in the case, but instead was responding to others.
But Fred Rabner, who represents Mr. Means, told the court that he made no disparaging comments about the prosecution following the verdict, and instead has only repeated claims at trial that he believed Mr. Adams lied on the stand.
Mr. Rabner said he thought Mr. Zappala's comments could have a "chilling effect" on the system and how jurors perform their jobs. But Ms. Spangler said since the trial is over, that Mr. Zappala was fulfilling the "public's right to know" by responding to reporters' questions.
Following the discussion, Judge Mariani granted a request by the defense for Mr. Means to be released to electronic monitoring pending sentencing. The judge noted Mr. Means' criminal history from several years ago, as well as a history of either not appearing for court, or fleeing.
"He's a risk," the judge said. "The trouble is your client runs. His history is terrible."
Nevertheless, the judge concluded, Mr. Means will be permitted house arrest with work release.
Judge Mariani also told him that if doesn't appear for court, he will go to state prison. The standard guideline range for escape, according to assistant district attorney Christopher Stone, is 15 to 21 months incarceration. Mr. Means will be sentenced on July 30.
The judge on Friday also addressed the length of time it took for one of the defendants, Mr. Paranay, to be released from custody at the jail.
Although the jury's verdict was returned before 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Mr. Paranay did not get out of the jail until 4:15 p.m. Thursday. Judge Mariani said that length of time for release was "unacceptable."
From now on, he said he will release defendants who have been found not guilty, and who have no other detainers, immediately.
"Defendants need to be given back their freedom immediately," he said.
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard.