Monday, June 20, 2011

Poplawski Trial Begins

Today is the first day in the trial of Richard Poplawski, who is accused of the April 4, 2009 killing of three Pittsburgh Police Officers: Paul Sciullo, Stephen Mayhle, and Eric Kelly.

In opening arguments this morning, Deputy District Attorney Mark Tranquili said he has plenty of witnesses and exhibits to prove that Poplawksi is guilty. Defense attorney Lisa Middleman said that has yet to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and that there are "physical impossibilities and inconsistencies" with the story Tranquili would have the 12 jurors believe.

The jurors were selected from Dauphin County and brought to Pittsburgh last night due to pretrial publicity. They will be sequestered throughout the trial.

Tranquili says the defendant and his mother Margaret Poplawski were having an argument, so she called 9-1-1 and the officers were dispatched to the scene.

Several of the Poplawskis' Stanton Heights neighbors were called to the stand.

Joanne Devinney testified she saw the accused man holding a rifle at his Fairfield Street home on the morning the three officers were fatally shot; she says she was also able to see the bodies of Mayhle and Sciullo at the entrance to the Poplawskis' home.

Devinney says she also saw the defendant's mother smoking in the driveway, wearing a pink bathrobe, during the incident.

Alfred Lejpras says he looked out his window to see Richard Poplawski shooting the fallen body of one of the officers.

Michelle Ostrowski says she watched Kelly's white vehicle pull up to the scene, where the officer was shot as he was leaving his SUV. She says she could not see the shooter.

Pittsburgh Police Officers Wade Sarver and Timothy McManaway continued the testimony in the afternoon.

McManaway says he saw Kelly struggling on the pavement by his SUV when he arrived on the scene, so he ran to him and dragged him to cover behind the vehicle. McManaway says he then saw a woman in a bathrobe nervously smoking a cigarette in the driveway; he says she refused to take cover with him when he asked.

McManaway also gave emotional testimony as to helping his injured friend. After taking a bullet to the hand from an automatic weapon, McManaway says he did his best to help Kelly stay out of shock.

Both officers say they traded gunfire with the shooter; Sarver from a nearby tree, and McManaway from behind the SUV.

More testimony is scheduled for this evening, as well as throughout this week.

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