Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Verdict

by Joyce Tremel

Sometimes justice prevails.

Leslie Mollett was convicted of first degree murder yesterday in the slaying of Corporal Joseph Pokorny on December 12, 2005. Now the jury must determine whether Mollett lives or dies. The fact that Cpl. Pokorny was on his knees with his hands in the air when Mollett fired a shot into the back of his head will be pivotal in these deliberations. I don’t think I have to say where I stand on this.

This case has been riveting from the very beginning. From the video of the crime scene to the actor’s stand off with police days later. From the audio tape of the traffic stop to the courtroom packed with everyone from drug dealers to state troopers. No less than six people were arrested during the trial, the most recent one yesterday (for intimidating the jury).

The prosecution presented over 337 exhibits and 67 witnesses. There was overwhelming evidence which included Pokorny’s blood and DNA on Mollett’s cell phone and inside the car he was driving. A forensic pathologist detailed the agonizing last few minutes of Pokorny’s life: How the first shot entered the side of his chest and went through his lungs. How he then fell to his knees with his hands up in the air. How the next bullet—shot from 3 to 9 inches away—hit his left ear, fractured the base of his skull and went through his neck.

The defense attorney attempted to refute the evidence. In the end, though, the defense only called one witness who was quickly cut down by the prosecution. The defense attorney's closing argument was only 45 minutes long, where he stated, “The law shields us from the intimidation of a police state. What stands between us and anarchy is the law.” He tried to make the point that the dozens of state police officers in the courtroom were there to intimidate. It didn’t work.

The prosecutor’s closing arguments lasted 2 ½ hours and he stated that the police were only there because “they give a damn—unlike the defendant’s buddies.” He closed with these words, “If you want proof beyond all doubt, I don’t have to give it to you, but I did.”

Rest in peace, Corporal Pokorny. Justice has prevailed.

16 comments:

Tory said...

I know this is a bit off-topic, but I keep coming back to Vicky's comment at the workshop that you have to put a hangman's noose behind the correct ear in order to snap someone's neck.

Does anyone know what asymetry of the human body makes it different which side you put the rope on?

Joyce said...

Tory, I wondered about that, too. If you check this link:
http://www.angelfire.com/fl3/starke/hanging.html
scroll down and read the execution by hanging protocol for the state of Delaware. It appears there is a lot of physics involved and it does state that the knot needs to be by the left ear. It doesn't say why, though. I'll keep looking.

Annette said...

I somehow managed to go all day yesterday without hearing or seeing a news broadcast, so I was thrilled to read this, Joyce. Some of the clips I'd heard of things the defense lawyers said were so idiotic they made me laugh. Obviously, this guy had NOTHING to work with.

Nice to the system working this time.

Tory, I honestly don't know the answer to that one. I wonder if it makes a difference if a person is right or left handed. In my yoga classes, most asymetry is caused by the overuse of the dominant side OR because of injury.

Nancy said...

Nobody's happier to hear the guilty verdict than I am. But first degree? I thought that meant the crime had to be premeditated? I understand what happened, but surely this idiot didn't plan his crime. Gina--or some other lawyer--can you explain this?

And, believe it or not, I'm against the death penalty entirely.

ramona said...

Does the fact that he was a law enforcement officer allow the first degree charge? Or am I showing my woeful ignorance here?

lee lofland said...

I believe the knot positioning is merely tradition. It was once thought that the neck would be easier to break if the knot rested against the left ear.

You can read about it in the book I've listed below. Oh, did I mention that my cousin, Dr. John Lofland, was one of the co-authors.

State Executions Viewed Historically and Sociologically: The Hangmen of England and the Dramaturgy of State Executions (Criminology Law Enforcement) (Hardcover)
by Horace Bleackley (Author), John Lofland (Author)

Also, in many states, the act of killing an on-duty police officer is justification for the death penalty (murder in the 1st degree without premeditation). Some of the others are murder involving rape, armed robbery, multiple victims, and kidnapping.

Lee Lofland said...

Sorry. I, too, had a typo. I meant to say WITH premeditation. And Gina's right, there is no time limit that determines premeditation.

Here are the instances when murder becomes captital murder in Virginia

1. The willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of any person in the commission of abduction, as defined in § 18.2-48, when such abduction was committed with the intent to extort money or a pecuniary benefit or with the intent to defile the victim of such abduction;

2. The willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of any person by another for hire;

3. The willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of any person by a prisoner confined in a state or local correctional facility as defined in § 53.1-1, or while in the custody of an employee thereof;

4. The willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of any person in the commission of robbery or attempted robbery;

5. The willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of any person in the commission of, or subsequent to, rape or attempted rape, forcible sodomy or attempted forcible sodomy or object sexual penetration;

6. The willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of a law-enforcement officer as defined in § 9.1-101 or any law-enforcement officer of another state or the United States having the power to arrest for a felony under the laws of such state or the United States, when such killing is for the purpose of interfering with the performance of his official duties;

7. The willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of more than one person as a part of the same act or transaction;

8. The willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of more than one person within a three-year period;

9. The willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of any person in the commission of or attempted commission of a violation of § 18.2-248, involving a Schedule I or II controlled substance, when such killing is for the purpose of furthering the commission or attempted commission of such violation;

10. The willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of any person by another pursuant to the direction or order of one who is engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise as defined in subsection I of § 18.2-248;

11. The willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of a pregnant woman by one who knows that the woman is pregnant and has the intent to cause the involuntary termination of the woman's pregnancy without a live birth;

12. The willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of a person under the age of fourteen by a person age twenty-one or older;

13. The willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of any person by another in the commission of or attempted commission of an act of terrorism as defined in § 18.2-46.4;

14. The willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of a justice of the Supreme Court, a judge of the Court of Appeals, a judge of a circuit court or district court, a retired judge sitting by designation or under temporary recall, or a substitute judge appointed under § 16.1-69.9:1 when the killing is for the purpose of interfering with his official duties as a judge; and

15. The willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of any witness in a criminal case after a subpoena has been issued for such witness by the court, the clerk, or an attorney, when the killing is for the purpose of interfering with the person's duties in such case

mike said...

Interesting case--the trial was riveting and the prosecutor certainly was thorough--and interesting discussion on what constitutes first-degree murder in PA...thanks Gina for the insight.

One thing that struck me about the trial was the number of observers--family and friends of defendent--who were arrested during the trial for various offenses, from outstanding warrants to jury intimidation. I wouldn't've been surprised at one or two arrests, but six (per yesterday's P-G). What kind of world did this Mollett and his cohort inhabit? Obviously, one beyond my experience or knowledge.

Lee Lofland said...

Man, this is typo day! Capital, not captital. Duh...

I'm headed to Myrtle Beach SC this morning where I'm speaking for the South Carolina Writers Workshop Conference. Anyone going?

Gina said...

Mike -

I don't think all the arrests were the defendant's family and friends -- wasn't one of the arrestees a woman who stole a purse from one of his relatives?

[What kind of idiot steals a purse in a courtroom full of police, gangsters, and media reps?]

Nancy said...

Thanks for the info, Gina. Makes sense.

Darnit, Lee, I was hoping to see you at Dying To Write in DC this weekend!

mike said...

Gina--One arrest, not part of the six, involved a Lawrenceville resident who stole a wallet left on scanner belt at the court entrance. Not sure about the incident you cite. I'll have to check out the P-G's stories to get a full accounting.

Annette said...

I've often heard that most criminals are pretty stupid. The Einsteins stealing stuff inside the courthouse during this trial do tend to prove that.

Joyce said...

I think what made the charge in this case first degree murder is that the victim had already been shot once. The killer could have run away at this point. Instead he chose to shoot the victim in the back of the head when he was on his knees with his hands up in the air. That to me, is enough to constitute premeditation, even if it was only a few seconds.

Tory said...

Thanks, Joyce and Lee, for your interesting information and references!

kathie said...

Joyce, I'd been loosely following this story and any way you look at it it's revolting and sad. Understanding this sort of violence--much of the violence we hear of every day--is hard. Impossible for most of us. Thanks for the update and details