Second hung jury 
in West Mifflin killings

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Defense attorney James Wymard told the jury that it was night time, there was bad lighting, a long distance and foliage that would all have prevented witnesses from identifying a man who was running away after he just shot and killed two men.

But assistant district attorney Robert Schupansky argued in his closing last Friday that witnesses at the Monview Heights housing complex in West Mifflin told police immediately that they were able to identify the man fleeing the scene with a gun as Richard Krista.

Most of the jurors believed the prosecutor, but not all. And so after three days of deliberations, and no unanimous verdict, Common Pleas Judge Joseph K. Williams III declared a mistrial.

A new trial date has been set for May 12.

This was the second time the case against Mr. Krista went to trial. The first one, in October, also ended with a hung jury.

Indications of a split this time around came early — just hours into the jury’s deliberations on Friday. But Judge Williams told the panel to go home for the long weekend and return ready to go back to work Tuesday morning.

Shortly after they convened Tuesday, they again told the judge they couldn’t reach a verdict.

But he had them keep trying.

Shortly before noon Thursday, the jurors sent Judge Williams a note that they could not reach a verdict.

The 10-2 split was in favor of the prosecution, who alleged that Mr. Krista, 21, of Whitaker killed Cody Ruder, 21, and Joseph Sherrill, 19, both of West Mifflin, on May 11, 2012, behind 20Q Midway Drive in Mon View Heights

As part of the case, the jurors were taken last week to view the scene.

But Mr. Wymard warned them in his closing that the conditions they viewed — daylight, winter, barren trees — would have been dramatically different in May and at night.

Further, of the key witness, the lawyer continued, “How long would he have had at night, with limited lighting, with the foliage?”

The defense hammered on the fact that there is no physical evidence in the case.

“You’re being asked to speculate, ladies and gentlemen,” Mr. Wymard said.

But Mr. Schupansky disagreed.

Witnesses who testified said they heard Mr. Krista arguing with his girlfriend the night before the shooting about Ruder.

She claimed he was flirting with her, and that he was responsible for her losing her apartment. The girlfriend, who did not testify, told Mr. Krista to beat Ruder up.

He responded, witnesses said, by saying, “‘I’ll take care of it. If I have to use this gun, I will.”

Mr. Schupansky said the killing of Ruder was personal. After Ruder was shot the first time, he collapsed to the ground, and the shooter then stood over him and fired three more times, the prosecutor said.

“You heard witnesses say he was angry. This was personal. This many shots and shooting someone in the face multiple times says you are angry,” Mr. Schupansky said. “This was about [his] girl being messed with.”


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


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