Whitaker man convicted of first-degree murder for killing two men in West Mifflin

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A jury deliberated about seven hours before finding a Whitaker man guilty Thursday on two counts of first-degree murder.

Richard Krista, 22, will be sentenced to a mandatory term of life in prison without parole by Common Pleas Judge Joseph K. Williams III at a later date.

As the defendant was led away in shackles, he spoke to his distraught family.

"I'll be back on appeal," he told them. "Don't worry about nothing. I'm cool."

James Wymard, who represented Mr. Krista, said he would "absolutely" appeal, citing evidentiary issues, as well as procedure during the third trial of his client.

Mr. Krista was accused of killing Cody Ruder, 21, and Joseph Sherrill, 19, both of West Mifflin, on May 11, 2012, at the Monview Heights housing complex.

The first two trials ended in mistrials when the jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict.

During the weeklong trial, assistant district attorney Robert Schupansky argued that Mr. Krista killed the men because he learned the day before that Ruder had been hitting on his girlfriend.

Mr. Wymard argued to the jury that a key witness against his client could not be 100 percent sure that it was Mr. Krista, and that other witnesses identified him as wearing different clothing than the man seen fleeing the shooting scene that night.

"I thought there was more than enough reasonable doubt," he said.

As for his concerns about the process, the defense requested a mistrial earlier in the case after the prosecutor made an objection in which he suggested that Mr. Krista could take the stand and testify on his own behalf.

In a criminal trial, the defendant has no obligation to testify, and exercising that right cannot be held against him.

Judge Williams rejected Mr. Wymard's request for a mistrial and instead asked the jurors to stand and swear an oath that they would abide by his instruction on the issue.

"The jury was tainted by that," Mr. Wymard said.

He also expressed concern in the process, saying that Judge Williams removed a juror four days into the case who had nodded off during testimony. Mr. Wymard felt the juror may have been defense-oriented and should not have been removed.

The final panel of 10 women and two men began deliberating Wednesday afternoon and returned the verdict about 3 p.m. Thursday.

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard. First Published June 5, 2014 3:29 PM


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