Court upholds decision to void Munchinski murder conviction
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An appeals court today upheld a 2011 decision voiding the conviction of David Joseph Munchinski in the 1977 murders in Fayette County of Peter Alford and Raymond Gierke.
The two-page decision, backed by a 72-page opinion, by three judges of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gives the state Office of the Attorney General 120 days to retry Mr. Munchinski, if it chooses to do so. He has been free since Sept. 30, 2011, and living in Florida.
His release came after U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan decided that the 1986 conviction of Mr. Munchinski was improper, and that continued incarceration of the 60-year-old former Latrobe man would cause him irreparable harm and would not benefit the community.
Judge Lenihan found that Fayette County prosecutors hid evidence that could have exonerated Mr. Munchinski, including contradictory statements by the now-dead key witness against him. The case against Mr. Munchinski hinged on the shifting recollections of Richard Bowen, a burglar and forger.
The Office of the Attorney General appealed Judge Lenihan's decision, but it is unclear whether it will seek to challenge the 3rd Circuit decision by appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, or seek a retrial of the murder case. A spokesman for the office could not be immediately reached for comment.
Also unavailable was Mr. Munchinski's attorney, Noah Geary.
Also convicted of the killings, which happened in the course of an effort to steal drugs and demand money from the victims, was Leon Scaglione. The two men were killed in the Laurel Highlands area known as Bear Rocks
First Published September 11, 2012 12:31 am