Superior Court refuses murderer's transcript request
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State Superior Court today denied a motion from a Washington County lawyer who accused the county's president judge of tampering with a trial transcript and other court documents.
A week ago, Noah Geary, the lawyer representing Gerald Szakal, 28, of Rostraver, filed a petition with the high court, saying President Judge Debbie O'Dell Seneca ordered her court reporter to alter transcripts from his client's weeklong murder trial in 2009.
Arguing that he couldn't properly file an appeal for his client without accurate records, Mr. Geary asked the high court to give him 90 more days to file an appeal and to order court reporter Toni Dinardo to produce the original diskette from her stenography machine, her notes and audio tapes of the trial.
During an October 2009 jury trial, Mr. Szakal was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder, robbery, theft and other crimes related to the March 4, 2008, shooting deaths of retired Carroll police Chief Howard Springer and his wife, Nancy Springer.
The judge, who faces a 10-year retention vote in November, is being accused of ordering Ms. Dinardo to alter a sentencing hearing transcript for one of Mr. Szakal's codefendants and the transcript from Mr. Szakal's trial.
Mr. Geary said defense motions, including one for a mistrial, were removed or deleted from Mr. Szakal's trial transcript.
On Tuesday, District Attorney Steven Toprani filed an answer to Mr. Geary's accusations, telling Superior Court that Mr. Geary's latest request "merely rehashes allegations" he previously made. The motion filed last week marks the third time that Mr. Geary has petitioned the court to order the release of the audio tapes and other materials. Each time, the court has denied the request.
In an order released today, Superior Court again denied Mr. Geary's requests, though he was given 14 additional days to file an appeal on Mr. Szakal's behalf.
The court said it would grant no further time extensions to Mr. Geary, but indicated it would hear his arguments regarding the altered transcripts.
"The issue will be decided by the panel of this court assigned to decide the merits of this appeal," the order stated.
Mr. Toprani said he was satisfied with the denial and said Mr. Geary has so far "failed to show credible evidence to support his assertions."
"We were pleased, but not surprised by the Superior Court's decision," Mr. Toprani said in a statement. "We have filed our brief in this matter and look forward to defending our conviction."
Mr. Geary could not be reached for comment.
First Published August 26, 2011 5:12 pm