Day five of the trial against Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak today is focused around closing arguments by the defense and prosecution, jury instructions and the jury deliberation.
The two are being charged in the death of Luis Ramirez.
Brandon Piekarsky, 17 of Shenandoah Heights, is charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, simple assault, ethnic intimidation, criminal solicitation/hindering apprehension or prosecution and purchase, consumption, possession or transportation of liquor. Third-degree murder, with a possible maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years in a state correctional institution, is the most serious degree of homicide Piekarsky faces.
Derrick Donchak, 19 of Shenandoah, is charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, criminal solicitation/hindering apprehension or prosecution, ethnic intimidation, corruption of minors, purchase or consumption of alcohol by a minor and selling or furnishing alcohol to minors.
(Shenandoah Teen Trial Coverage: Day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, My Verdict, Verdict is in!, Shenandoah Rally and Archive)
The largest attendance at the courthouse occurred today where as many as 100 people crowded the courthouse to hear the closing arguments. It was a drizzly and rainy day at the courthouse and once again there were no protesters or demonstrators present. The only time there were those rallying was in favor of the teens on day one that they had already been tried and convicted in the media.
Crystal Dillman, self-proclaimed "fiancee" of Luis Ramirez, once again sat in the front row with MALDEF representatives in the courtroom. School officials were also in attendance to chastise and punish any students from Shenandoah who attended the trial.
Above, some community reaction to the trial from WNEP
There were many surprises that occurred during this trial, none of which were due to testimony in the case.
The first surprise was that the prosecution ended it's case so soon with a minimal of witnesses. The second surprise was that the defense ended it's case early as well. The only reason I can find that the defense ended it's case so rapidly was because it felt that the prosecution did such a poor job of proving beyond a reasonable doubt the charges brought against the two teens.
Jurors have remained reserved yet attentive throughout the whole of the trial.
In it's closing arguments, Donchak's attorney Jeff Markosky
made the case that his client was indeed involved in a fight with Ramirez, but that no weapons were involved on Donchak's part. He also states that Donchak pulled Ramirez to his feet after the initial scuffle. Markosky also addressed the fact that Donchak once wore a "Border Patrol" t-shirt and that it doesn't prove guilt of anything.
As you'll see Markosky is correct as the prosecution did once again bring out the picture of Donchak wearing the t-shirt in their closing arguments. Something he did on Halloween.
Piekarsky's attorney Fred Fanelli laid out for the jury that the prosecution was trying to turn this into a racially motivated incident when it was not saying that they "shaped" the evidence to fit that point of view. He also pointed out that the prosecution called no investigating officers and that prosecution was rude to the law enforcement that they cross examined. He asked the jury to imagine how they treated the other youths in the case before trial.
Fanelli also stated that prosecution avoided calling Arielle Garcia, the only eye witness to the alleged crime and who indicated the color of shoes that kicked Ramirez. "not calling the eyewitness...is that in helping you determine the truth?" Fanelli said implying that the prosecution was not intent on discovering the truth but just obtaining a conviction.
Fanelli made an excellent point when referring to forensic pathologist Barbara Bollinger and her testimony on day three that she was a paid consultant for the prosecution and refused to meet with defense attorney's telling them "it's in my report, you go figure it out", all the while meeting with the prosecution 7-9 times to discuss her autopsy reports.
Fanelli closed with pointing out that none of the shoes in the case were examined. And stated to the jury "There is not only reasonable doubt in this case--there is overwhelming doubt." and that if you think it is possible Scully kicked Ramirez, there is reasonable doubt.
Excellent closing in my opinion by Fanelli.
Assistant District Attorney Rob Franz reiterated that they got the right guy in this case, meaning Piekarsky. He said that the defense's case was a fictional account of what happened. Franz said the defense's main witness, Arielle Garcia, could not even recall for sure on the shoe color or who kicked Ramirez. He also pointed out that Ramirez' 5 phone calls during the incident were for help, not backup. If I was on the jury I would think "well why didn't he call the police if he needed help?"
Franz said the BB gun brought to the scene by Torvald was a red herring. The strongest case Franz made in closing was on the cover up after the incident. There was really no defense presentation refuting those charges. On the "ethnic intimidation" charges Franz said that while Piekarsky and Donchak didn't use hateful words, their actions confirmed the words that had been spoken. Weak argument.
Franz closed with saying that this case came down to three pictures, then he displayed a picture of Donchak in his Border Patrol t-shirt, Piekarsky in a sleeveless t-shirt (being a football player Piekarsky is quite built) being led away by police and Luis Ramirez. I'm not sure which picture they used of as Ramirez, but it may have been the propaganda picture Dillman and MALDEF have been floating of Ramirez holding his baby.
9:03 Markosky begins closing arguments for defense.
Markosky: Redmond is the only one who was sober and did not change his initial statement.
Markosky: Redmond said Donchak didn't arrive until after the initial exchange of comments.
Markosky: "make no mistake: those two (Donchak and Ramirez) engaged in a fist fight."
Markosky: There was no metal, and Donchak's involvement ended when he pulled Ramirez to his feet after their altercation.
Markosky: testimony says Donchak and Ramirez grabbed each other--tough to do with a weapon in hand.
Markosky: no testimony puts the weapon in Donchak's hands at the scene.
Markosky on Walsh and Scully: "they want others to take the fall for their actions."
Markosky on "Border Patrol" shirt: "a t-shirt is not an expression of what that person believes. It's a t-shirt."
Markosky: I didn't question many of the witnesses because they didn't mention Donchak.
Markosky: it was Donchak who called the police--you don't do that if you're guilty
Piekarsky's Defense Attorney
9:38 Fanelli begins closing statement.
Fanelli: prosecution "shaped" evidence to fit their story of racially motivated crime
Fanelli: prosecution alleged "sophisticated cover-up" but called no investigating officers
Fanelli: no testimony said Piekarsky used slurs
Fanelli: prosecution was rude on cross-exam to police in open court--imagine the pressure the kids they called must have felt
Fanelli: Schlack's testimony said a beating, but her 911 tape said fighting "each other"
Fanelli: prosecution did not call Arielle Garcia, who saw white shoes on kicker
Fanelli: "not calling the eyewitness...is that in helping you determine the truth?"
Both defense lawyers have spoken about responsibility for one's actions, mentioning Ramirez attacking after the boys walked away
Fanelli: Lawson was scared too--he'd drank, lied to police, and beat on the Garcias vehicle
Fanelli: "Ben Lawson would blame that desk if he thought that's what he was supposed to do."
Fanelli working to discredit some of the boys in the group.
Fanelli: Scully was first at the police station the next day; "his plan from day 1 was to distance himself from all of this"
Fanelli on Scully: "this is the same kid who told an FBI agent 'shred one of my statements'"
Fanelli: Walsh had charges dropped in return for testifying about Piekarsky's and Donchak's involvement
Fanelli: Arielle Garcia on white shoes: "it's a picture that plays out in my mind"
Fanelli: Arielle's 911 tape said "someone kicked him in the face...I know the names"
Fanelli: Garcia said "you killed him" to Scully and does not recall a denial
Fanelli: prosecution "didn't call the cops to testify, they attacked the cops when they testified."
Fanelli: Bollinger told us "it's in my report, you go figure it out" yet was a paid prosecution consultant and met with them 7 to 9 times
Fanelli: it was implied Shen. cops were "in on it", yet D.A. Office was on case at 2:30 a.m. and started interviews at 9 a.m.
Fanelli: it's unfair that Det. Carroll didn't have eyewitnesses examine the shoes
Fanelli: "You know that the key to their freedom is in Brian Scully's bedroom, and you don't go and get it?""
Fanelli: "There is not only reasonable doubt in this case--there is overwhelming doubt."
Fanelli to jurors: would you decide something important in your life based on testimony by Scully, Walsh and Lawson?
Assistant DA Rob Franz
11:14 Frantz delivering closing arguments for the prosecution.
Frantz: defense's version of events is "fiction."
Frantz: this case is not about boys who were concerned for Roxanne Rector--Scully's comments were "sarcastic"
Frantz: Ramirez called for help, not back-up--a husband who tried to break up the fight and wife who broke down on the stand
Frantz: BB gun was a red herring; this is not about self-defense
Frantz: "We got the right guy."
Frantz: we have walked jury through evidence puzzle "piece by piece by piece until you saw the picture"
Frantz on changing testimony: "team bonding runs deep--doesn't that...take time to come apart?"
Frantz on Walsh: "did he look like someone who has come to peace with his part in this? I suggest that he has."
Frantz on Walsh's deal discrediting him: "what reasonable person would rather deal with the FBI than Tony Carroll?"
Frantz: Arielle cannot confirm memory of shoes--"no case can be founded or based on guesses"
Frantz: Arielle saw her friend beaten to death and broke down on the stand
Frantz on Arielle: "If she knew who kicked, she would scream it from the rooftops."
Frantz: medical evidence indicates two injuries including direct impact to left side of head
Frantz: Piekarsky lives with Hayes and went to scene with him--"he started the lies...that's self-preservation...consciousness of guilt"
Frantz: Ramirez called because he was "outnumbered and outgunned" and needed help
Frantz: Piekarsky is kicker... "From what is he defending himself? That's an offense."
Frantz: "There can be no justification for how this ended."
Frantz: Ramirez was convulsing, foaming at mouth: Piekarsky took his last normal sign of life--breathing
Frantz on ethnic intimidation charges: they acted as a group--accomplices' actions confirmed words
Frantz on Piekarsky: "When hearing those words he was not affronted, he didn't run away...he ran to Luis Ramirez and started beating him."
Frantz mentioned swelling on Donchak's knuckles and called them "offensive injuries."
Frantz: testimony that Donchak said "it's over" and tried to end fight are untrue.
Frantz said the case came down to three pictures, not three victims.
Frantz's closing argument ended with pictures of Ramirez, Donchak and Piekarsky.
Frantz used a picture of Donchak in the "Border Patrol" t-shirt and Piekarsky being led by police while wearing a sleeveless t-shirt.
12:04 Closing arguments have concluded. (Lunch Recess and then jury instructions)
3:03 Judge Baldwin has concluded his instructions to the jury, and they entered deliberations at about 3 p.m.
The four alternate jurors have been dismissed.
Jury instructions were largely standard and technical, detailing the aspects of each charge and how the jury must weigh evidence.
Baldwin told the jury to closely examine testimony by Walsh and Scully because they are accomplices in the fight.
Baldwin: accomplice liability comes into play if defendants intended to promote/facillitate the crime and aided/attempted to aid it.
Baldwin: justification/self-defense comes into play if use of reasonable force is necessary to prevent from an attack.
Ethnic intimidation: crime committed with malicious intent toward victim's real or perceived race, color, national origin or ancestry.
4:20 Jury briefly re-entered the courtroom for a question.
The jury asked Baldwin for clarification on criteria for ethnic intimidation, reckless endangerment and corruption of minors charges.
Baldwin: ethnic intimidation charges must be linked to a guilty verdict for at least 1 of: simple/aggravated assault or criminal homicide.
5:00 Jury deliberation halting for dinner.
(Shenandoah Teen Trial Coverage: Day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, My Verdict, Verdict is in!, Shenandoah Rally and Archive)
Testimony above from The Republican Herald