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Accused granted new trial in Bear Rocks murders

A criminal defendant, now 59 years old, is being granted his third trial in the famous 1977 shooting of two men at a Fayette County resort. Recently, a Pennsylvania judge ruled that prosecutors in the previous trials have withheld crucial evidence that supported the defendant's innocence.

According to the judge's ruling, prosecutors failed to produce a 1991 FBI interview with a man who originally testified as a witness to the murders. Previously, the witness testified that he drove the accused, and a second man, now deceased, to the murder site. During the 1991 interview, the witness confessed that he lied during his testimony, and that the Pennsylvania State Police had offered him money to claim that he drove the two men to the murder site. According to the interview, he never even met the accused until a year after the murders had taken place.

Prosecutors also withheld a police report stating that another man admitted to committing the murders, according to the court's opinion. The former prosecutors also admitted to removing key paragraphs from statements made by the deceptive witness, and for pasting and editing together other paragraphs of statements. The judge concluded that all of these actions constituted constitutional violations, which deprived the accused of his rights and justified a new trial.

Prosecutors have been given four months to put together a new case against the defendant. The defense attorneys, however, speculate that they will not proceed with the trial, and will most likely have to release him after the four months are up.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Latrobe man gets new trial in Bear Rocks murders," Richard Gazarik, Aug. 6, 2011

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