Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Curious Conviction Case Remains Curious

Attorney wants Fayette County to pay $25,000 in legal fees
Liz Zemba
Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The attorney for a convicted double murderer wants Fayette County to pay $25,378 in legal fees.

The money would be in addition to $126,286 the county already has paid to Noah Geary, attorney for David Munchinski.

Munchinski, 57, was convicted in 1986 of the Dec. 2, 1977, murders of James Alford and Paul Gierke at a Bear Rocks residence. Munchinski, who maintains he is innocent, is serving a life sentence.

Geary, who was court-appointed in 2004 to represent Munchinski in a post-conviction appeal, is to appear before Senior Judge Charles Loughran 10 a.m. Friday in Fayette County for a hearing to determine whether he should be paid. In a petition, Geary indicated the bill is for 507.55 hours of work he did at a rate of $50 per hour on Munchinski's case between 2005 and 2007.

Geary could not be reached yesterday for comment, but he indicated in his petition the $25,378 is his final bill on the appeal.

The appeal is one of many filed in the past two decades on Munchinski's behalf.

Munchinski was nearly freed in 2004 when Senior Judge Barry Feudale ruled that then-prosecutors Gerald Solomon and Ralph Warman, now Fayette County judges, tampered with and withheld evidence that Geary argued would have freed his client.

The state appealed and won its battle to keep Munchinski in prison. In December 2007, Geary filed an appeal in U.S. District Court seeking Munchinski's immediate release. U.S. Magistrate Lisa P. Lenihan in August sent the appeal to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

That court, Lenihan indicated, is to decide whether the appeal should proceed to U.S. District Court for her consideration.

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