Poplawski's lawyer wants governor gagged, too
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When Gov. Ed Rendell was asked this week about Richard Poplawski, who is accused of shooting and killing three Pittsburgh police officers, he said he would sign a death warrant for the 22-year-old Stanton Heights man "without a moment's thought."
Today, in a court filing, Mr. Poplawski's attorney said she wants Mr. Rendell to take a few moments to think before he speaks publicly about her client.
Lisa G. Middleman, a public defender, is requesting that a judge extend a gag order in the case to the governor and all public officials.
"Should the District Attorney of Allegheny County elect to pursue a sentence of death," Ms. Middleman wrote in the court filing, "the decision of penalty must be made by a jury of impartial, unbiased individuals unaffected by the pressure of public opinion."
She continued, "The opinions of public officials have a greater impact on the general public than those of the average citizen."
"The governor did not intend to pre-judge the suspect's guilt or innocence," Chuck Ardo, a spokesman for Mr. Rendell, said in an e-mail message today. "He simply meant that if found guilty by a jury and sentenced to death he would sign a warrant quickly."
Mr. Ardo also noted that a death warrant would not go to the governor's desk until a jury had reached a verdict and decided on a sentence.
On Tuesday, Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey A. Manning ordered people involved closely with the case --- police investigators, attorneys, court and jail personnel --- to avoid making statements outside the courtroom that could affect the legal process.
District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. has not said whether he will seek the death penalty for Mr. Poplawski.
First Published April 16, 2009 1:33 pm