The federal judge who ordered the release of exonerated murder convict David Joseph Munchinski declined today to dismiss the discredited charges against him, compelling the man's attorney to take his effort to state court.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan wrote in a brief order that she "lacks the authority" to grant a motion to dismiss the charges that led to Mr. Munchinski's 1986 conviction on two 1977 murders in the Bear Rocks area of Fayette County.
Judge Lenihan in 2011 ordered Mr. Munchinski's release from prison, citing false evidence, and gave prosecutors 120 days to retry him. In September, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld her ruling, and that decision started the 120-day clock.
There has been no effort to retry Mr. Munchinski, 60, who moved to Florida.
Mr. Munchinski's attorney, Noah Geary, said he will file a motion in the Fayette County Common Pleas Court to formally dismiss the charges.
"Because they failed to retry David, a Fayette County judge is going to have no choice but to grant my motion," Mr. Geary said.
He said he would like to have the charges formally dismissed before he files a wrongful prosecution and imprisonment lawsuit.
"Fair is fair. It's time to compensate the man for 27 years of wrongful incarceration."
Rich Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord