PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The jury in the Piazza double murder trial has been told to disregard the testimony of an admitted shooter, one of the key figures in the case. Defense lawyers had previously argued there should be a mistrial, because the jury already heard hours of his testimony.
Judge Jeffrey Minehart met privately with prosecutors and defense lawyers, then brought the jury out to tell them to ignore Donnell Murchison’s testimony. The judge says since Murchison “refused to answer the majority of questions,” the defense was deprived of its constitutional right to cross-examine him.
So, the judge told jurors to, “strike him from your memory banks, do not consider what he said, or didn’t say, or his demeanor, when you go back to deliberate.”
As the jury was being picked two weeks ago, Murchison pleaded guilty, and immediately received two consecutive life prison terms. But, in order to escape a potential death sentence, he also agreed to testify.
Although the judge threatened, to this point, he has not cited Murchison for contempt of court.
Reported by Steve Tawa, KYW Newsradio 1060