PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Richard Poplawski is on death row, convicted for the murders of Pittsburgh Police Officers Paul Sciullo, Stephen Mayle and Eric Kelly.
But, on Wednesday, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille raised the possibility of Poplawski getting a new trial.
He appeared to agree with Poplawski’s attorney that the District Attorney’s Office overreached in the trial and penalty phase by comparing Poplawski to a dog and showing a video of the officers’ funeral, which included bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace.”
“What this D.A. did was build in a new trial for this,” Chief Justice Castille said. “Why was all that necessary? The crime itself was horrible. Why do you need things like bagpipes playing ‘Amazing Grace?’”
Poplawski’s attorney, public defender Carrie Allman, is asking the high court to grant a new trial.
She says prosecutors disregarded pre-trial agreements not to introduce certain inflammatory evidence, including Poplawski’s postings on a neo-Nazi website.
Chief Justice Castille also questioned why Judge Jeffrey Manning, who presided over the trial, then allowed these things.
“Where was the judge when this was going on? When you read the record, it seems like he didn’t do anything to enforce pre-trial rulings,” Chief Justice Castille said.
The lead prosecutor in the case was Mark Tranquilli, who is now a common pleas judge.
In a statement, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office conceded they may have been overzealous.
The statement said: “This was an emotional matter for our community and the court believes that we should have done a better job at controlling that emotion.”