Update – 8.23.2015
On Monday July 20, 2015, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a September ruling by a federal judge that David Munchinski’s lawsuit could proceed against two former prosecutors. The prosecutors, Ralph Warman and Gerald Solomon – now senior judges in Fayette County – are accused of destroying a tape in which a key witness said he had no knowledge of the crime that Munchinski was wrongfully convicted of, according to TribLive.com:
That witness, Richard Bowen, subsequently testified that he was an eyewitness to the murder.
Evidence turned up during Munchinski’s appeal that showed Bowen was out of the state at the time of the shootings. Bowen later committed suicide…
Cercone, in September, denied Warman’s and Solomon’s motions to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds of prosecutorial immunity.
Cercone, in a Sept. 14 memorandum opinion, said absolute immunity from civil claims does not apply to the destruction of evidence.
“Prosecutors never enjoy absolute immunity for deliberately destroying exculpatory evidence,” Cercone said in the opinion. “Solomon and Warman are not immune for civil claims arising out of the allegations that they destroyed the recording of Bowen’s first interview.”
Read our original post about the lawsuit and Mr. Munchinski’s case below.
Original Post – 10.28.2013
In June we reported that David Munchinski, whose 1977 conviction for a double murder was tossed out by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals just over a year ago (see Munchinski v. Wilson), would not have to face a new trial after a judge dismissed the murder charges against him with prejudice.
After losing 27 years of his life to a wrongful conviction, Munchinski is now suing the prosecutors and former prosecutors who were responsible for his imprisonment. On September 4, 2013 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Munchinski filed a lawsuit against three former prosecutors, two of whom are now senior judges on the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas, and the estate of a late state trooper who investigated the case. The two judges are having their legal bills covered by Fayette County, and the prosecutor is requesting similar support.
The basis of the complaint against the men is that they held onto evidence that they knew would disprove Munchinski’s conviction. For instance, at first his co-defendant told police that he knew nothing about the double murder, but the recording of that statement was never disclosed by prosecutors to Munchinski’s lawyers. The same co-defendant later testified at trial that he was the getaway driver for Munchiski, who he said committed the murders. The co-defendant later recanted before committing suicide. Furthermore, the state apparently possessed evidence that their key eyewitness was actually in Oklahoma – not Pennsylvania – at the time of the crime. And an alternate suspect later confessed to the murders before dying in prison.
Yesterday, the Herald-Standard reported that Munchinski amended his lawsuit to include further claims of prosecutorial misconduct. He is apparently asking for an 8-figure settlement.
A judge must first rule on whether the case can proceed against the defendants before a trial can be scheduled. We will continue to provide updates as Munchinski’s lawsuit progresses.
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