Man Wrongly Convicted of Murder Sues

A Pennsylvania man who spent nearly 25 years in prison before his double murder conviction was overturned has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging violations of his constitutional right to a fair trial.

The lawsuit by 61-year-old David Munchinski names three former prosecutors, two of whom are now judges, as well as the estate of a former state trooper and the commonwealth.

Munchinski was convicted in 1986 in the shooting deaths of Raymond Gierke and James Peter Alford in December 1977 at a cabin in Bear Rocks, Pa.

A federal appeals court last year upheld a judge's dismissal of the charges, saying "staggering" violations of disclosure rules left the convictions ``badly tainted and highly suspect."

Munchinski's attorney, Noah Geary, said his client would be seeking an eight-figure sum in economic, psychological and punitive damages. He said he hoped to reach a settlement with the state, but if not "it would be up to a federal jury."
"Fair is fair," he said Wednesday. "The man did 27 years wrongfully, and it's time to do the right thing."
Named in the suit are Fayette County Common Pleas senior judges Gerald Solomon and Ralph Warman, and attorney John A. Kopas III, all of whom did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The state attorney general's office also declined immediate comment.
Munchinski was charged several years after the murder after a jailhouse informant came forward. His first trial in 1983 resulted in a mistrial, but he was convicted and sentenced to two life terms in 1986.

The appeals court noted that jurors were not told about a deal for leniency granted to the informant, who later told the FBI that he had lied on the stand.
Munchinski's appeal cited 11 things that could have helped his case that he argued had been intentionally suppressed.  He appealed unsuccessfully to the Pennsylvania Superior and Supreme courts before winning an appeal in federal court.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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