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Poplawski Trial Begins After Two Years.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | June 20, 2011

No. 635

Richard Poplawski in the corridor of the Allegheny County Court House

On a bright Saturday morning, April 4, 2009, Richard Poplawski shot and killed three City of Pittsburgh police officers who responded to a 911 call.  Now, over two years later, he is facing trial and the death penalty.

Considering the abundance of evidence, proving the case is not the problem.  The problem is making the conviction stick without the case being sent back for a new trial on appeal.  That is why the case will be tried before a jury selected in Dauphin County. There is too much at stake for the prosecution and the court to take that chance.  And of course, the prosecution seeks not just a conviction for first degree murder, but the death penalty.

The other day, the court considered whether to exclude from the eyes of the jury photographs of brutal carnage.  Go beyond the point where the evidence is probative and into the area where it might inflame the passions of the jury and potentially cause is created for the verdict to be set aside.

On one hand, the evidence must rise to the level where the death penalty is appropriate, but on the other hand, it cannot go too far.  What is too far?  Good question.  It is a matter of educated judicial judgment.

Appeals to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court are mandatory in death penalty cases.  So we won’t know the final answer until it is supplied by the Supreme Court. As a famous catcher famously stated, its not over until its over.




CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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