A Pa. Judge dismissed all charges against David Munchinski on June 14, 2013, now totally free after 30 years. It was the first case ever probed by the Innocence Institute of Point Park University. David Munchinski was released on September 30, 2011 after spending 25 years in prison. He was wrongly convicted of the 1988 double murder known as the “Bear Rocks Killings.”
Professor William Moushey and his students at the Innocence Institute have been reporting about David Munchinski’s case since 2002. Below is the original series followed by more recent updates.
A Question of Innocence: Daughter’s questions could help free dad
David Munchinski has been jailed 15 1/2 years for killings he says he didn’t do
Sunday, June 23, 2002
By Bill Moushey, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
First of two articles
Raina Munchinski’s only clear memories of her father have come from her infrequent visits to the penitentiary where he is serving a life sentence for the 1977 murders of two drug dealers in Fayette County.
|Raina Munchinski with a picture of her father, David, taken shortly before he started serving his life sentence.
Over the 15 1/2 years he has served at the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh, David Munchinski often told his daughter that the people who had testified against him at his two murder trials lied and that prosecutors had withheld crucial information.
As they sat across from each other, the girl couldn’t summon the courage to ask her dad the question that plagued her — Did he do it?
Finally, seven years ago, she overcame her fear and asked her father what had really happened on that wintry night in Bear Rocks when James P. Alford, 24, and Raymond Gierke, 28, were executed.
David Munchinski looked her squarely in the eyes: “You know, Raina, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. I did a lot of dumb things. But I did not commit these crimes.”
From that moment, Raina committed herself to finding the evidence that would free her father. Now, at the age of 26, a year older than her father was at the time of the killings, her years of effort may be close to bearing fruit.
Of course, most lifers claim innocence, and their relatives often believe them because they don’t want to abandon hope. But in this case, Raina has collected enough evidence to cast serious doubts on her father’s conviction:
She found that the star witness against her father told officers he lied.
She found evidence that the witness might not have been in Pennsylvania on the day of the killings.
And, she found previously unreleased documents suggesting other suspects had admitted killing the two men.
Largely as a result of her work, a Fayette County judge reopened Munchinski’s case in the spring of last year. The judge removed himself because two of his fellow judges had served as Munchinski’s prosecutors. Last week, Senior Judge Barry Feudale of Northumberland County, who was appointed to the case by the state Supreme Court, began to sort through the issues being raised by Munchinski’s new attorney, Noah Geary, who is being paid in installments by Raina Munchinski.
She and Geary hope to win a dismissal of the charges against David Munchinski, or at least a new trial.
“I am not going to rest until my father is out,” she said.
How it started
The first call came early Dec. 2, 1977. It was apparently made from the murder scene in the Laurel Highlands, near the boundaries of Westmoreland, Fayette and Somerset counties.
A man told a Bell telephone operator that he had been shot at 837 Alpine Road in a section of Bullskin Township known as Bear Rocks. Police believe the call came from Gierke. About 2:30 a.m., just after the operator referred the call to Mount Pleasant police, another call came in. Bonnie Blackson, whose house was near one owned by Gierke’s family, told a dispatcher “a man was on her porch, leaning against [the] double doors and having a hard time breathing.”
Within 20 minutes, two state police troopers arrived at the remote scene to find Alford lying dead at the Blacksons’ rear door. Troopers traced Alford’s movements down a tree-strewn, rocky ravine and up a short hill to a lighted cabin 114 yards away.
No one answered the door, so they went inside. Behind an overturned stuffed chair, they found the lifeless body of Gierke, his face covered in blood. The troopers found drug paraphernalia and small bags of cocaine at the cabin, leading them to believe the homicides were probably drug-related. They also found tire skid marks on Alpine Road and blood trails outside the Gierke house.
Autopsies and other forensic evidence would eventually show that the men died from gunshot blasts from two weapons, one a .357-caliber Magnum revolver, the other a .25-caliber semiautomatic. Alford was shot in the back at close range. Gierke suffered lethal gunshot wounds of his head and chest and also was shot in the hand.
Within 24 hours of the killings, investigators learned that Gierke, a waiter in a Westmoreland County restaurant, had been a major drug dealer. Alford also had bought and sold drugs, but was more of a minor player in what was then a fast-growing drug culture in the Laurel Highlands.
Investigators soon learned Gierke owed money for drugs, and that those he owed included members of the Pagans Motorcycle Club, a notoriously violent sect of outlaw bikers. Witnesses told police he not only had been threatened with death over the debt, but he also believed that someone was stalking him.
One way he had hoped to start paying off what he owed, his friends told police, was by selling a quarter pound of cocaine on the day he died.
There also was another unusual finding in the pathology reports.
Both the victims had engaged in anal sex in the 24 hours before their deaths. It might have been a sign they had sexual relations with each other, but that’s not how the evidence was presented at trial several years later, when it would become a key part of the testimony that convicted Munchinski of murdering Gierke and Alford.
A criminal life
At the time of the killings, David Munchinski was on a path to nothing good.
The son of a Latrobe police officer, Munchinski had built a reputation as a tough-guy drug dealer in Westmoreland County. He sold drugs, used drugs and stole drugs. He was involved in numerous skirmishes, many with folks who were in the drug culture with him.
His combativeness sometimes seemed foolhardy. During one of his forays into the drug world, Munchinski so enraged members of the Pagans for muscling in on their business that they sprayed bullets into his rural trailer home. One slug hit within inches of his baby son’s head.
Munchinski’s reaction: He went unarmed to one of the Pagans’ hangouts and challenged them to fight. Several days later, when he was jailed on drug-related assault charges, Munchinski’s trailer was burned to the ground.
One of the outgrowths of Munchinski’s life of crime was his partnership with a burly, violent man named Leon Scaglione.
Scaglione, then 29, fancied himself a mob-style enforcer, like the frightening Luca Brasi, the cold-blooded hit man in “The Godfather.” Munchinski said he was friendly with Scaglione, who also was a drug dealer and abuser, and often used him as a backup when he thought a transaction might lead to trouble.
Even though Scaglione and Munchinski would be charged together in the Bear Rocks killings, Munchinski said he quit associating with Scaglione regularly almost a year before the day of the shootings because he knew Scaglione was mentally ill and was going through long periods where he lost contact with reality.
Scaglione, who is now dead, eventually confessed to the killings, but Munchinski doesn’t believe he was involved. Scaglione told police that his partner in the shootings was another man, but because Scaglione refused to testify during Munchinski’s final trial, the jury never heard that information.
Munchinski’s name came up in the case Dec. 6, 1977, four days after the killings, when police interviewed Lori Lexa, Alford’s girlfriend of five years. She said Alford had told her Munchinski was his drug supplier and that they were scheduled to meet the night of the killings.
Eventually, Lexa would testify against Munchinski in his trials.
Whether she would stick by that testimony today is another matter.
While she would not discuss the case for this story, her husband, Daniel Scanlon, told a reporter during a visit to their home, “You know, she doesn’t believe [Munchinski] did it, either.”
Munchinski himself not only denied doing business with Alford or Gierke, but also said he warned them of possible trouble at the cabin.
He said he met them once, less than a week before they died. Munchinski said he knew where they lived, and he told them that he and another man had been asked to help rob two drug dealers in Bear Rocks.
Munchinski said Gierke and Alford thanked him and said, “Forewarned is forearmed.”
On the day of the crimes, Munchinski said, he was at home caring for a dog that had been shot in one of his drug disputes and which he had just brought home from the veterinarian. The only adult witness to that story would have been Munchinski’s ex-wife, Vickie, who left him shortly afterward and has since disappeared. The veterinarian could not be located.
David Munchinski is far from the only killing suspect whom Lexa told police about.
There also was Edgar Wiltrout. State police reports suggest he owed Gierke money for cocaine, but was refusing to pay, causing Gierke to welsh on his own debts.
Immediately after the killings, Wiltrout, now 49, a longtime criminal who is serving a 16- to 60-month sentence in state prison as a repeat drunken driving offender, made menacing remarks to Lexa and Deborah Wiltrout Dahlmann, his estranged wife.
“Wiltrout wants to know everyone she talks to and what she tells them,” says a Jan. 4, 1978, police interview with Lexa.
Lexa told police she knew Wiltrout usually carried two guns, one in a shoulder holster and another in his boot.
Even more damaging were statements made by Dahlmann about a year later. She called Greensburg police on Feb. 14, 1979, and told them a drunken man had called her after he apparently got stuck in snow near her home. He wanted to talk with her estranged husband, Edgar Wiltrout.
“She told him Ed was in jail, and he stated that is a good place for him and that is what he deserved because he killed Pete Alford,” the police report reads. She said she asked him how he knew that, and he said, “Because I was there.”
According to Dahlmann’s account, when Wiltrout and two others arrived at the remote cottage, Alford and Gierke were in bed. Wiltrout, according to the report, had a .357-caliber Magnum handgun and a .25-caliber semiautomatic, which match the calibers of the guns used in the killings. “Ed shot both of them,” the police account of Dahlmann’s statement reads.
That report would never be introduced at Munchinski’s later trials, because a judge decided it was extraneous to the case.
A defiant ‘Prove it’
When troopers attempted to interview Wiltrout and told him they thought he had something to do with the shootings, he told them to “prove it” and ordered them off his property. He was never arrested in the killings, and he has not responded to requests for interviews.
In another police report that would not turn up for 20 years and was unavailable for either of Munchinski’s trials, a woman reported a conversation she had had with her boyfriend at the time of the killings, Michael Urdzik. She was then 15 and already addicted to drugs.
During a drive in the country, she said, Urdzik, who was twice her age, confessed to her: “He told me he was up at Bear Rocks with Ed Wiltrout one night and [Wiltrout] shot the two boys over a drug deal,” the police report reads.
Urdzik moved to California within a week of the killings. A man told police he had sold Urdzik a .25-caliber weapon about a month before the slayings.
During a telephone interview last year, Urdzik, who initially pretended he was his brother, refused to answer questions about the police reports. Urdzik has never been interviewed by police.
Another man whose name came up repeatedly was Homer Stewart, a drug dealing acquaintance of Munchinski’s who was dating Dahlmann, the estranged wife of Wiltrout, at the time of the killings.
It was Stewart who had asked Munchinski to go with him to rob Gierke and Alford. One police report suggests Gierke owed Stewart $22,000 for drugs when Gierke was killed.
Stewart, who has since died of liver failure, told police he wasn’t involved in the killings. But a few years later, during Scaglione’s second trial, Scaglione testified that Stewart was the man who had helped him commit the killings.
By the time the early stages of the probe were complete, there were almost a dozen potential suspects in the killings, including Munchinski and Scaglione. Aside from some sparse forensic evidence, though, there were few other solid clues among the files and transcripts, which would grow to more than 12,000 pages by the time Munchinski and Scaglione were sent away for life.
A reputed kidnapping
Even though Lexa and Dahlmann had mentioned other suspects to police, they also told a story that led to the arrest of Munchinski and Scaglione long before they were charged in the killings. That would come back to haunt them at their trials.
The women said that on Jan. 28, 1978, less than two months after the killings, Munchinski and Scaglione abducted them from the Five Points Bar near Greensburg. During that episode, the two women said, Scaglione admitted the killings and forced them to go to his apartment, where he and Munchinski tossed knives into a wall near them as they told the women details of the killings.
Munchinski denies abducting Dahlmann or Lexa. He said he spent time with them at the Five Points Bar to find out as much as he could about the case. He also met once alone with Lexa, two days after he purportedly had abducted her.
Eventually, the charges related to the supposed abduction were dropped.
But years later, at Scaglione’s and Munchinski’s trials, the women would testify that the men had accosted them in the bar itself and then confessed the killings. The women dropped any mention of an abduction.
After the initial flurry of police interviews, the Bear Rocks investigation was dormant for 3 1/2 years. Munchinski and Scaglione were just two on a long list of possible suspects.
That changed on June 24, 1981.
That’s when Richard Bowen, then 29, a man whose name had not appeared in a single police report up to that point, summoned state police to the Westmoreland County Detention Center.
Bowen, a heavy alcohol and drug abuser, told police that Scaglione had made a jailhouse confession to him in the Bear Rocks slayings. They didn’t seem impressed. It merited only one paragraph in their report.
But 15 months later, Bowen called police again, seeking help on some charges he faced. By the time they were done talking with him, Bowen’s story had grown to the point that he said he was with Munchinski and Scaglione on the night of the killings.
Munchinski’s nemesis had appeared.
And from that point on, Raina Munchinski believes, her father began to be framed for the murders.
Published version: Star witness’s story full on inconsistencies (Part two)
(June 24, 2002)
Published version: Witness recanted story in another case (Sidebar)
(June 24, 2002)
Update: Incarcerated man sues Fayette County authorities
(August 16, 2005)
Update: Courts release, then return convicted murderer to prison
(January 19, 2005)
These files contains affidavits, briefs, court transcripts, police files, medical reports and letters. Download the following files to view:
Munchinski Ordered Released on Bond
David Munchinski, the first subject of an Innocence Institute of Point Park University investigation, was ordered released on bond this morning after 25 years in prison by a federal judge who said “I don’t think he should have been convicted….see more later today at www.innocenceinstitute.org.
Bond Hearing Scheduled for Munchinski
A hearing to determine whether or not David Munchinski will be granted bond will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 30 in the courtroom of Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan, Lenihan, who reversed Munchinski’s double-murder convictions in an 80-page opinion last month, will determine whether or not Munchinski should be freed while he awaits the results of an appeal of Lenihan’s ruling by the Pennsylvania Attorney General
After 25 years in prison in the ‘Bear Rocks Murders,” Former Latrobe Man Released Pending Outcome of Appeal
By Leah Welch and Darlene Natale
The Innocence Institute of Point Park University
PITTSBURGH—As a bare-headed and graying David Munchinski, still wearing drab blue prison garb, emerged into a steady downpour from prison for the first time in 25 years, he first stumbled across a parking lot to hug his mother, then approached a horde of media.
“The rain feels great,” he said outside the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh.
He stood close to his daughter Raina Tousey, continually wrenching his hands behind his back — as if the handcuffs that had just been removed were still attached. The man who has fallen into the grips of Parkinson’s Disease and other health woes during his incarceration seemed to react to every shutter snap, looking uncomfortable but grateful for the physical and emotional support his daughter provided.
Munchinski first thanked his daughter, who has fought for his freedom for years, and his attorney, Noah Geary, and “higher powers starting with Judge (Lisa Pupo) Lenihan” of the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Pennsylvania, who hours earlier had ordered his release.
He also thanked the Innocence Institute of Point Park University, which has investigated and written stories about him for the past decade.
“They [The Innocence Institute of Point Park University] got the ball started pretty much. And when they did, they packed a good snowball and rolled it down the hill and it picked up a lot of steam,” Munchinski said.
He said his first culinary wish was for a meal of lobster and shrimp. But he also said he quickly wanted to head to Florida to reside with his daughter where he planned to “go swimming.” They left Pennsylvania on Oct. 3. His daughter said he jumped in her pool as soon as they got there.
What he actually ended up eating Friday night was stuffed cabbages, courtesy of his mother as he reunited with family members in her Monroeville home.
As he devoured the large cabbage leaves rolled around ground meat in tomato sauce, Muchinski admitted he was still trying to get a grip on swift actions that saw him go from a man condemned to prison for life to freedom in a little over five hours. “My head has been spinning,” he happily said about his release on bond in the 1978 double murder known as the “Bear Rocks Killings.”
“I don’t think he should have been convicted,” Judge Lenihan said during an hour-long hearing Friday before she ordered the release of the sickly 59-year-old. Munchinski had been imprisoned since 1986.
“Before this, I never knew how long the legal process was. When this first started I thought 3-5 years tops,” Tousey said while waiting in the courthouse hallway before the bond hearing.
During the hearing, his family sat in the front row while Munchinski was ushered in. His mother, Vilma Demos, sat with her hands tensely grabbing her knees, “I just want to take him home today,” she said.
As Munchinski, who earlier testified about a wide range of medical issues including Parkinson’s Disease, back and neck issues, heard the release order and was led shackled down a federal courthouse hall afterwards, he told media: “I think it’s good.”
Later, he elaborated.
“When she said “yes”, she’s granting … bond, right before that I didn’t expect her to, for some reason I didn’t expect her to, so I just blanked out …and when she said it. I was very happy,” Munchinski said.
His mother broke into tears, tightly hugging her tearful granddaughter after the ruling. They were allowed to spend some time with Munchinski after the judge left the courtroom and before he was led away.
Tousey, of New Port Ritchie, Fla., who has fought for her father’s exoneration for many years, was stunned.
“I’m having trouble putting it into words. This is the day we’ve been waiting for. I can’t wait to take him home,” Tousey said in the courthouse hallway.
“He’s missed out on all these things in life…it’s just a shame when you sit down and think about it,” she said.
Geary, the lawyer that caused the convictions to be reversed, said: “I don’t know if it has sunk in yet.”
“They took the best years of his life away from him,” Geary said.
Gregory Simantic, a deputy attorney general who has handled various appeals in the matter, offered little rebuttal during the hearing and said afterwards he was not surprised by the outcome.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office did not appeal the release order and did not respond to a request for comment.
At 4:43 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, after prison officials ensured he did not have any outstanding warrants against him and stalled the release until it was sure prosecutors were not going to appeal the release order, he emerged.
“When I walk out here my head is spinning…bouncing off everything around here. I have no focus…because this is so new I’m still adapting to it,” Munchinski said.
Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan Opinion Video by L. Welch
Second Favorable Ruling
In August 2011, in an 80-page opinion filled with stinging admonishments of the practices of state police, Fayette prosecutors and judges on Pennsylvania’s Superior Court, Judge Lenihan listed a litany of unconstitutional actions in the case that compelled her to reverse the convictions of Munchinski, which she said were “unworthy of confidence.”
She said state police investigators and Fayette prosecutors hid key tapes and other reports documenting contradictions of testimony from an admitted liar to convict Munchinski, illegally altered police reports, hid key exculpatory evidence, and among other things, failed to adequately investigate suspects other than Munchinski.
Ultimately, she concluded that Munchinski demonstrated that “the prosecution of his 1986 murder trial suppressed favorable evidence that was material to the determination of his guilt or innocence.”
Adding new evidence discovered since Munchinski’s 1986 trial to the mix, the judge concluded, “Additionally, (Munchinski) has adduced new, credible evidence of his innocence, and it is clear that, no reasonable trier of fact could have convicted (Munchinski) of the crimes with which he was charged, but for the multitude of constitutional violations that occurred in this case,” Judge Lenihan wrote in granting Munchinski’s petition for a new trial.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office, which took over the case several years ago after Fayette prosecutors were removed from it, filed a notice of appeal on Friday, Sept. 2. A brief supporting the appeal will be filed by mid-October 2011.
The Bear Rocks Murders
For almost five years after James Peter Alford, 24, and Raymond Gierke, 28, were found dead in a Laurel Mountain cabin, state police investigated numerous suspects, but were frustrated until a vagabond, drug and alcohol-addled misfit from Greensburg was caught in petty burglaries and immediately offered evidence in the Bear Rocks slaying for a deal.
In his September 1982 statement, the full text of which would not surface for many years, Richard Bowen told police he met Munchinski and the now deceased Leon Scaglione in a Greensburg bar where they drank shots of whiskey chased with beers and smoked marijuana before Bowen says he was hired to be the getaway driver in a drug rip-off.
Despite his heavy intoxication and the fact that blizzard-like conditions existed, Bowen initially told police he drove the two men to Gierke’s cabin where he sat in Scaglione’s lime green Ford while they committed the crimes. Among many subsequent changes in his stories, Bowen later said he left the car, walked down a driveway and watched through a window as Munchinski and Scaglione anally raped and murdered the victims during a cocaine heist.
He told police Scaglione tossed the murder weapons into a pond as they drove back to Greensburg. Despite Bowen’s background as a burglar and thief who was caught lying on numerous occasions, police used his singular statement and a collection of circumstantial evidence to charge Munchinski and Scaglione with the murders.
Questionable Testimony and Egregious Misconduct
Bowen’s testimony grew repeatedly from his first statement to the last. Even then, his sworn testimony didn’t jibe with forensic evidence and the fact that Alford was found over 100 yards from the murder scene. While he said the victims were raped, and during Munchinski’s trial prosecutors linked him to it through blood grouping tests, a subsequent analysis proved the DNA did not match Munchinski. The guns were never found in the pond Bowen said they were tossed into. The car Bowen said he drove was not purchased by Scaglione until several months after the killings.
During his testimony, Bowen said he was only promised marginal help in his own legal problems, another statement that was also discredited later. Despite his constantly changing testimony, both of them were eventually convicted after two trials.
Years later, Munchinski’s daughter took up the case, conducted a detailed probe into Bowen and other witnesses and eventually contacted the Innocence Institute of Point Park University, which after a two year probe of the case, wrote a two part series, “A Question of Innocence” in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and on its web site “A Question of Innocence” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 23, 2002, “A Question of Innocence: Star witness’s story full of inconsistencies” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 24, 2002 , and“A Question of Innocence: Witness recanted testimony in another case” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 24, 2002.
They documented a police report discovered in another case suggesting Bowen was in Oklahoma on the exact day of the killings. Then they learned Bowen recanted his testimony at least four times, once to an FBI agent and another time under oath.
Also found was documentation Bowen received money and other deals from prosecutors in exchange for his testimony that juries never knew about.
Most importantly, Munchinski discovered a police report stating Bowen’s first statement was taped. Under evidentiary rules in criminal cases, commonly called “discovery,” a prosecutor is supposed to turn over any evidence it has that would tend to benefit a defendant.
In her opinion, Judge Lenihan said: “Because the prosecution relied heavily upon this witness’ testimony to support its case of first and second degree murder, and because of the utter lack of physical evidence tying (Munchinski) to the crimes, this Court is constrained to hold that the withheld evidence resulted …in convictions…that are unworthy of confidence.”
During questioning at one hearing by Geary, Munchinski’s most recent lawyer, the lead prosecutor who is now Fayette County Common Pleas Judge Ralph Warman admitted he removed two paragraphs from the original Bowen police report which stated a tape was made.
Judge Warman said he did it with the approval of District Attorney Gerald Solomon, now President Judge of Fayette County. While he said he removed the paragraphs and cut and pasted the paperwork to disguise his actions because no tape was made, other reports and testimony suggested that critical interview was recorded. The tape has never surfaced.
All of that misconduct became the basis for a visiting judge’s scathing opinion in October 2004, where citing intentional prosecutorial misconduct, he reversed the convictions against Munchinski and ordered the tape of Bowen turned over within 10 days or he would dismiss the case. He also referred the Fayette prosecutors for criminal prosecution. No one has been charged.
Reversal of Fortune
Munchinski was never released because the state attorney general’s office filed an immediate appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, arguing the misconduct did not affect the case, that Munchinski filed his petition late, was simply re-litigating issues he already lost and that despite Bowen’s constantly changing testimony, there was still enough evidence to bring a conviction.
A year later, a three judge panel of the Superior Court reinstated Munchinski’s conviction, stating his appeal was filed late. Normally, if a petition is filed late, that court will simply deny the petition in a single sentence or phrase, but in this matter, it filed a 119-page unpublished opinion challenging almost every element of Munchinski’s appeal.
Judge Lenihan questioned that action because the Superior Court’s job is not to hear or determine evidence, but only to see if the law was applied correctly in cases before it. In the Munchinski case, she said it assumed things outside the court record.
“It is disturbing to this Court that, in its rejection of the factual findings and credibility determinations of the … trial court, despite support existing for them on the record, the Superior Court apparently overstepped the bounds of the applicable standard of review of factual and credibility determinations for this type of proceedings,” she wrote.
During three hours of arguments in July 2011 that ended with Judge Pupo Lenihan’s new trial order, Geary argued Munchinski’s conviction should be reversed, and a retrial barred because officials hid or altered reports documenting questions about whether Bowen was telling the truth (or even in Pennsylvania on the night of the murder) as well as a long list of other misconduct and misapplied evidence in the case.
Among many other pieces of new evidence, Geary provided the court with another hidden report suggesting another man confessed to the killings.
“What they did was outrageous and it is criminal,” he said. Geary also asked the judge to appoint a special prosecutor to probe the Fayette prosecutors.
“It is mindboggling. They did it, I proved it and the barring of a retrial is the only appropriate remedy,” he argued.
Simantic argued the case was filed outside of statutory deadlines, which Geary was over dramatizing the actions of prosecutors and suggested none of the hidden documents, or other questionable issues, had an impact on the jury’s findings.
For Judge Lenihan, misconduct at trial and afterwards forced her hand.
“The outrageous misconduct in which the prosecution engaged during the criminal trials and the (appeals) further undermines Bowen’s testimony and casts a pall of doubt over every single piece of evidence presented by the prosecution in support of the case,” she wrote.
Leah Welch and Darlene Natale are graduate assistants with the Innocence Institute of Point Park University, where students learn investigative reporting by probing into and writing about allegations of wrongful convictions and prosecutorial misconduct. They were assisted in this report by Professor Bill Moushey, director of the organization, and Point Park undergraduate students Jeff Stitt and Paige Krivda.
Charges dismissed after man spent 25 years in prison
A Fayette County judge Friday dismissed the charges against a man who spent 25 years in prison for the 1977 shooting deaths of two men.
David Munchinski, who had fought his 1986 conviction from the outset, cannot be retried and is officially a free man.
“That’s the best morning David Munchinski has had in about 27 years,” said attorney Noah Geary following the hearing. “That finally puts an end to the criminal case against David.”
The next step, the lawyer continued, is to attempt to work out a financial settlement with the state to compensate his client for the years he was imprisoned.
“If they don’t want to make this right, then suit will be filed very quickly,” Mr. Geary said.
The civil rights claim, which would include allegations of malicious prosecution, would list as defendants the prosecutors who originally tried Mr. Munchinski and state troopers who investigated.
Mr. Geary first took the case on in 2001, around the same time Mr. Munchinski’s daughter, Raina S. Tousey, contacted the former Innocence Institute at Point Park University.
“They did a lot of work on it,” Mr. Geary said of the institute. “They certainly were instrumental in the result.”
Bill Moushey, the director at the institute, called Friday’s result, “unbelievably gratifying.”
“Even if it took a long time, it seems like justice was finally served,” he said. “What really is cool is his daughter spent basically her whole life trying to exonerate her father.”
Read More: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette