Defense asks for mistrial in Clairton officer's shooting
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The second day of trial for two men accused of shooting a Clairton police officer last year revolved almost entirely around the identification of the two defendants.
The day began with attorneys for Emilio Rivera, 27, of McKees Rocks and Marcus Andrejco, 19, of Rankin requesting a mistrial for "prosecutorial misconduct" after they said one of the victims in the case changed her story about who sexually assaulted her during the April 4, 2011, home invasion and shooting in the 800 block of Miller Avenue in Clairton that paralyzed Officer James Kuzak.
The woman initially said it was Mr. Andrejco who assaulted her, but then changed her story at a subsequent preliminary hearing and identified her attacker as Mr. Rivera. During her testimony Tuesday, she said it was Mr. Rivera who attacked her and Mr. Andrejco who shot out the back door, hitting Officer Kuzak.
On Wednesday morning, the defense questioned whether prosecutors knew the witness had changed her story and had failed to turn over reports or transcripts reflecting that.
Both attorneys said it compromised their credibility, because they told the jury in their opening statements that the woman could not identify the shooter. Ralph Karsh, the attorney for Mr. Andrejco, said it made him look "like a fool." He and Paul Gettleman, who represents Mr. Rivera, asked for the mistrial.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Edward Borkowski called the woman to the courtroom to ask her about a meeting with prosecutors and detectives on the case. She testified she met with them in April to "go over the case," but she said she was never asked if she could identify the shooter, nor was she shown pictures of the men.
Deputy District Attorney Daniel Fitzsimmons said there was no report generated from the meeting to provide to the defense because the woman had not changed her story.
After much debate, the defense attorneys withdrew their motion for mistrial.
However, the motion was again renewed late in the day Wednesday after the defense raised similar questions about the woman's fiance.
Although he said he was in the basement of the home by himself when Officer Kuzak was shot, the witness identified a photo of a man as the shooter. That person was later cleared.
Judge Borkowski denied the motion.
The woman, whose testimony continued from Tuesday, took the stand for only a brief time Wednesday and will resume cross-examination today.
During her testimony, the woman admitted to Mr. Karsh that she had changed her description of the suspect who sexually assaulted her.
"You always described the shooter up until yesterday as a short-haired man?" Mr. Karsh asked.
"Yes," she replied.
"But now it's a long-haired male?" he continued.
"Yes," she said.
Early on in the investigation, the woman identified two other men as being involved in the home invasion. She picked one out of a photo array and another out of a lineup. Those two men were ultimately cleared in the case.
Mr. Karsh spent a significant amount of time asking the witness if she thought either of those men resembled the defendants.
She testified she thought they looked like they could be related. Then, she continued about Mr. Andrejco, "I got a good look at him, and it's him. If I ever saw his face again -- and I saw it -- I would know. And I see it, and it's him."
Correction/Clarification: (Published July 27, 2012) A man who was the victim of a home invasion in Clairton in April identified as the shooter a man who was later cleared. An article Thursday incorrectly identified the person the witness had named.
First Published July 26, 2012 12:00 am