An Allegheny County judge specially presiding in the homicide case of three men accused in the October 2012 slaying of Washington & Jefferson College student Timothy McNerney set June 2 as the new trial date.
Judge Edward Borkowski was 72 hours away from selecting a jury when Michael DeRiso, the new lawyer for defendant Eric Wells, 25, of Pittsburgh, asked in February for a postponement so he could have ample time to prepare. The judge said he was “disappointed” the trial would not convene March 3, as scheduled, and he had hundreds of juror summonses canceled.
On Friday, Borkowski told attorneys representing Adam Hankins and Troy LaMonte Simmons Jr., “Hopefully, the relationship with your clients is in good standing. There will be no change of counsel unless that counsel is prepared to proceed on that date.”
DeRiso said he plans to ask for a change of venue or, as an alternative, that a jury from another county be brought to Washington to hear testimony because of extensive pretrial publicity. He also is seeking the identities of confidential informants with whom police spoke.
Representing Hankins, 24, of Washington, is Dennis Popojas, while the attorney for Simmons, 23, of East Pittsburgh, is John Puskar.
Earlier this year, Popojas asked that the charges of homicide, robbery and related charges against his client be dismissed because Hankins was merely a bystander. Borkowski on Friday dismissed this request, but Popojas asked the judge to reconsider when he files a legal brief.
Also at Friday’s status conference, First Assistant District Attorney Chad Schneider said he gave copies of the defendants’ statements to their lawyers.
McNerney, a W&J junior and football player from Butler, died across the street from campus after he and a teammate, Zach DeCicco of Jefferson Hills, were allegedly assaulted by the suspects as they returned from a local tavern.
McNerney died at Washington Hospital from an injury to the back of his head suffered when he was knocked to the ground near South College and East Maiden streets.
Investigators said they used a GPS device to trace a cellphone stolen from McNerney to one of the suspects and used that information to seek arrests.
The three defendants in the case, who did not appear in court Friday, are jailed without bond. If convicted, they could serve life in prison without possibility of parole.