PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – One of our city’s most notorious cop killers will be back in court Wednesday to try and convince the top judges in the state that he shouldn’t have been convicted, and shouldn’t have gotten the death penalty.
Richard Poplawski has had plenty of time to think about what happened five years ago in Stanton Heights.
He was convicted of shooting and killing Pittsburgh Police Officers Eric Kelly, Stephen Mayhle and Paul Sciullo during a domestic call.
Poplawski is currently living in solitary confinement on Pennsylvania’s death row with no daily human contact, except for his jailers.
Even if this appeal fails, Poplawski may never be put to death thanks to state law.
Poplawski spends 23 hours a day in a 15×15-foot cell on death row at the State Correction Institution at Graterford, outside Philadelphia.
One hour a day he has a choice. He can either take a shower or spend time alone in an open air pen.
He is one of 33 death row inmates at Graterford, including John Lesko, who is another prisoner sentenced to death for killing a police officer.
Like Lesko and most of the other 198 inmates on death row across the state, Poplawski has begun filing appeals.
His first appeal will be heard here in Pittsburgh tomorrow by the State Supreme Court. Poplawski wants both a new trial and a new sentencing hearing, saying he was unfairly branded as a racist and that evidence of his posts on a Nazi website should not have been admitted.
The district attorney is dismissive and issued this statement:
“The prosecution of this defendant was meticulous and thorough, based on overwhelming evidence. We are confident that his conviction and subsequent sentence will be upheld on appeal.”
Like other inmates, Poplawski has also begun sending letters to the news media.
In one sent to KDKA, he never says he’s innocent, but claims there may have been another shooter with him in the house, which is something investigators say has no basis in reality.
By all accounts, Poplawski will be able to write letters and file appeals for years to come. The death penalty hasn’t been implemented in Pennsylvania since 1999. That’s when Philadelphia’s “House of Horrors” convict, Gary Heidnik, said he no longer wanted to appeal and wanted to be put to death.
There are no current signed death warrants in the state and there are some inmates who have been on death row since the 1980s.
So, it’s unlikely that Poplawski or anyone else will be put to death anytime soon.
The Poplawski house has been torn down and this neighborhood in Stanton Heights hopes it fades into distant memory.
The families of the victims, police officers and the rest of the City of Pittsburgh hope the same about Richard Poplawski.