Double slaying case from 2012 sent to jury for third time

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For the third time, each lawyer got up before a jury and gave his closing argument.

For the defense, James Wymard told the jurors they were being asked by the prosecution to speculate about who killed Cody Ruder and Joseph Sherrill. He said that the case "screams out reasonable doubt."

For the prosecution, assistant district attorney Robert Schupansky argued that there was no question that Richard Krista was one of two people who fired seven shots the night of May 11, 2012, at the Monview Heights housing complex, and as for reasonable doubt, "There is none."

The panel of 10 women and two men began deliberating late Wednesday and will return today.

Mr. Krista, 22, of Whitaker is charged with two counts of criminal homicide, accused of killing Ruder, 21, and Sherrill, 19, both of West Mifflin.

The men were killed a day after Mr. Krista was told that Ruder had been hitting on his girlfriend.

One witness testified at trial that she heard Mr. Krista talking with his girlfriend, and he said, " 'When I see him, it's over. I'll take care of it.' "

He also was overheard saying, " 'If I have to use this gun, I will,' " Mr. Schupansky recounted for the jury.

The case against Mr. Krista has been tried twice before, and both times ended with the juries being unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

According to the prosecution, Mr. Krista was seen leaving the back door of an apartment in the complex one minute before the shots were fired, and seconds after was seen fleeing with a gun in his hand.

One of the key witnesses in the case was able to identify Mr. Krista by name because he went to school with him.

But, in his testimony -- at a preliminary hearing and during all three trials, Joshua Smithwick was unable to say with 100 percent certainty that it was Mr. Krista.

"He testified four times he wasn't sure," Mr. Wymard argued to the jury. "If he can't be sure, how can you be sure?"

Mr. Wymard also argued that Mr. Smithwick and another witness who identified his client described the shooter as wearing a white T-shirt and shorts -- while a separate witness testified that she saw Mr. Krista throughout the day wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black pants.

The veteran defense attorney mocked the prosecution's request for the jury to be instructed on the concept of accomplice liability -- that when more than one person is involved in a crime, they are equally responsible for the actions that occur.

"They have to tell you -- if he's the accomplice, who's the other person? ... What they're saying is: 'We don't know whether or not he did this.' "

Mr. Wymard called that "fatal" to the prosecution's case.

But, in responding to Mr. Wymard's comments, Mr. Schupansky told the jury both victims had "near-contact" wounds, and that Ruder was shot four times, and Sherrill, three.

"There's two shooters. Even though there are two shooters, one person can be guilty for both."


Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard.

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