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Author Topic: Pennsylvania Supreme Court Denied New Trial for John Lesko in 1980 Murder  (Read 1520 times)

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Offline AnneTheBelgian

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http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/westmoreland/s_724570.html

Cop killer Lesko 'closer to death' after new trial denied

By Richard Gazarik

TRIBUNE-REVIEW

Friday, February 25, 2011

Last updated: 5:14 am

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled yesterday that convicted cop killer John Lesko is not entitled to a new trial and penalty hearing for the 1980 murder of Apollo police Officer Leonard Miller during his "kill-for-thrill" spree.

The decision was made on an appeal to a 2006 ruling that granted Lesko a new trial and a third penalty hearing challenging his death sentence for killing Miller, a rookie policeman working only his third day on the job.

Chief Justice Ronald Castille wrote the opinion. Justices J. Michael Eakin, Max Baer, Seamus McCaffery, Thomas Saylor, Joan Orie Melvin and Debra McCloskey Todd concurred.

In 2002, Westmoreland County Judge Richard McCormick Jr. granted Lesko a new trial and sentencing hearing. District Attorney John Peck appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which has been reviewing the case since March 2008.

Peck said the ruling brings Lesko a step closer to execution.

"He's closer to the death penalty because he was not granted a new trial or sentencing hearing," said Peck, who has worked on the appeal with Assistant District Attorney Tom Grace for the past decade.

"We're extremely gratified. This appeal process has been a 10-year struggle," Peck said.

Peck said Lesko still can appeal to federal court in Pittsburgh, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals and even the U.S. Supreme Court, raising the same arguments he took before the state Supreme Court.

Lesko filed an appeal under the Post-Conviction Relief Act, claiming that his defense attorney, Rabe Marsh III, was ineffective because he failed to present mitigating evidence that would have spared Lesko the death penalty.

He said Marsh should have presented testimony that would have shown that Lesko had a troubled childhood that included abuse, a neglectful mother and psychiatric problems that would have made him ineligible for a death sentence.

Peck argued that Lesko had been examined by mental health experts in Indiana and Westmoreland counties before his 1981 trial, and "neither offered any indication that Lesko was brain damaged," the court wrote.

The ruling also exonerates Marsh, who was appointed to represent Lesko in 1980. McCormick had ruled that Marsh did not provide an adequate defense for Lesko.

"It is all too easy for the defendant or the court to second-guess a strategy that has proven unsuccessful," the justices wrote in the opinion. Rather, a reviewing court must make every effort to eliminate the distorting effects of hindsight, to reconstruct the circumstances of counsel's challenged conduct and to evaluate the conduct from counsel's perspective at the time."

The justices noted that the Lesko trial was not an example where Marsh failed to conduct any investigation.

"Instead, it is a case where counsel undertook a reasonable investigation and presented a compelling and partly successful case in mitigation, albeit the defense case did not ultimately carry the day," they wrote.

Lesko has professed remorse for the killing and is a changed man, according to the opinion. A chaplain at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford testified that Lesko is now a man of faith as he waits on death row.

Lesko's co-defendant, Michael Travaglia of Washington Township, also awaits execution.

Travaglia was granted a new trial and sentencing hearing in 2005. He again was found guilty of first-degree murder, and Westmoreland County Judge John Blahovec sentenced him to death.

Lesko and Travaglia went on a killing spree over the Christmas holidays, from December 1979 through Jan. 3, 1980, killing Miller and three others:

• Peter Levato, 49, of Pittsburgh was shot in a wooded area of Loyalhanna Township.

• Marlene Newcomer of Leisenring, Fayette County, was killed when she picked them up hitchhiking along Route 66 on New Year's Eve.

• William Nicholls, a former Irwin resident who was a church organist in Pittsburgh, was kidnapped on Jan. 2.

The pair threw Nicholls into an Indiana County lake after torturing him. They were driving his silver Lancia sports car when they encountered Miller and goaded him into pursuing them by nearly ramming his patrol car.











Photo : The murderer John Lesko >:(












Anne
"DEATH PENALTY OPPONENTS WHO TWIST THE TRUTH TO PROTECT KILLERS ARE ALSO TORTURING VICTIMS FAMILIES" (PETER BRONSON, CINCINNATI ENQUIRER,FEBRUARY 3, 2003)

PRO DEATH PENALTY AND PROUD OF IT !!!

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Offline Michigal

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Re: Pennsylvania Supreme Court Denied New Trial for John Lesko in 1980 Murder
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2011, 08:33:30 AM »
Too bad its PA. Even if his death warrant is signed he will die of old age living on stays of execution. The PA courts are heading an injustice regime.
Live your life in such a way that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan shudders and says..."Oh crap...she's awake!!!"

I have not met all of the innocent children murdered but I have wept for them. I have not seen all of the monsters but I know they are there.

Offline AnneTheBelgian

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http://www.newstimes.com/news/article/Kill-for-thrill-defendant-wants-execution-halted-2013532.php

Monday, August 15, 2011

'Kill-for-thrill' defendant wants execution halted

JOE MANDAK, Associated Press

Updated 01:39 p.m., Monday, August 15, 2011

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A man sentenced to death for killing a western Pennsylvania police officer in 1980 wants a stay of execution now that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has rejected a request for a new trial. He also wants a court-appointed attorney to assist him with yet another federal appeal.

The Federal Community Defender Office in Philadelphia filed the motion in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh for John Lesko, 52, formerly of Homestead.

The state Supreme Court in February rejected a 2006 ruling by a Westmoreland County judge that Lesko's attorney was deficient during the 1981 trial and a 1995 resentencing hearing.

Lesko and his co-defendant, Michael Travaglia, have pursued separate appeals since being sent to death row in 1981. Both were convicted of first-degree murder for killing Apollo police Officer Leonard Miller on Jan. 3, 1980, days after killing three others in what prosecutors have said was a "kill-for-thrill" rampage.

Gov. Tom Corbett has yet to sign a death warrant since the February ruling, but federal defense attorney Samuel Angell argues in a 10-page motion filed late Friday that "a death warrant is imminent."

The motion said if that happens, Lesko will be removed from his cell at the State Correctional Institution-Graterford and put in a segregated area under state death penalty protocols.

Among other things, Lesko would be confined alone around the clock "with progressively more invasive restrictions placed on his liberty as the execution date approaches." That would include visits closely supervised by a guard, restricted telephone access, a requirement that Lesko name next of kin to dispose of his body and undergo counseling about his execution, and even be "fitted for a jumpsuit to wear to the execution."

Lesko wants a stay of his death warrant so he "is not needlessly subjected to these procedures," the motion said.

Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said when the Supreme Court rejected Lesko's appeal in February that Lesko could still raise the same issues in the federal habeas corpus appeal now being sought.

County Judge Richard McCormick Jr. ruled in 2006 that Lesko deserved a new trial because his defense attorney, Rabe Marsh III, was ineffective for failing to present mitigating evidence that could have prompted a jury to spare the death penalty at a 1995 re-sentencing hearing. McCormick said Marsh should have raised issues including Lesko having an abusive childhood and mental problems that could have made him ineligible for a death sentence.

A few days after McCormick's ruling, Lesko's attorney at that time, Robert Dunham, said Lesko was willing to please guilty in return for a life sentence.

Peck appealed, resulting in February's Supreme Court decision. Peck did not immediately return a call for comment Monday on the new appeal motion, but has said repeatedly that the case is so heinous that not pursuing the death penalty would render capital punishment meaningless.

Lesko and Travaglia were sentenced to death for Miller's murder, which ended a rampage in which they killed three other people beginning shortly after Christmas 1979.

The men killed Peter Levato, of Pittsburgh, in a wooded area near the Loyalhanna Dam on Dec. 27, 1979, then killed Marlene Newcomer, of Leisenring, Fayette County, that New Year's Eve after picking her up hitchhiking.

The third victim was William Nichols, who died Jan. 2, 1980. The Mount Lebanon church organist was kidnapped and dumped in an icy Indiana County lake after being tortured, including having an ashtray emptied into his mouth.

Lesko and Travaglia were in Nichols' stolen car when they sped past Miller several times until the officer chased and pulled them over. Miller was shot as he approached the car.
















Anne

"DEATH PENALTY OPPONENTS WHO TWIST THE TRUTH TO PROTECT KILLERS ARE ALSO TORTURING VICTIMS FAMILIES" (PETER BRONSON, CINCINNATI ENQUIRER,FEBRUARY 3, 2003)

PRO DEATH PENALTY AND PROUD OF IT !!!

JE MAINTIENDRAI (MOTTO OF WILLIAM I THE SILENT, PRINCE OF ORANGE, 1533 - 1584, MOTTO OF THE NETHERLANDS)

DEO JUVANTE (MOTTO OF THE PRINCIPALITY OF MONACO)

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Offline deeg

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He wants, he wants and wants again.  Too bad he didn't want his victim to live.  Unfortunately, he murdered a police officer in PA - this will earn him notoriety and a street named after him in a country across the pond. 

Dee
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Offline Grinning Grim Reaper

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...this will earn him notoriety and a street named after him in a country across the pond. 

It will be named in his honor not memory...PA will never get around to executing him!
Vengence is mine saith the Lord...who are we to question the instruments used to carry it out?

Offline AnneTheBelgian

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http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/pittsburgh/s_759252.html

Execution upheld for 'kill for thrill'

By Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The state Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a death sentence for one of the "kill for thrill" shooters, ruling that the capital sentence imposed for killing an Apollo police officer was supported by the evidence.

A jury twice sentenced Michael Travaglia, 53, to death for shooting Officer Leonard Miller, 21, during a string of four killings in the week after Christmas 1979. Travaglia's friend and accomplice, John C. Lesko, 53, also received a death sentence.

A federal judge overturned Travaglia's original death sentence and ordered a new penalty phase, which resulted in a second death sentence from a different jury in 2005.

Lesko, who remains on death row has exhausted his state appeals and Gov. Tom Corbett signed his death warrant on Sept. 15, scheduling Lesko's execution for Nov. 9. U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry, however, ordered the state to suspend the execution while Lesko pursues his federal appeal of the case.

In the 6-0 ruling yesterday, the justices rejected arguments by Travaglia's attorney in the 39-page opinion. Travaglia's attorneys argued that the jury in the penalty phase for Miller's death was tainted when prosecutors mentioned Travaglia killed three other people. Travaglia of Washington Township and Lesko of Lincoln Place, Allegheny County, were 19 years old when they went on their killing spree from Dec. 27, 1979 to Jan. 3, 1980.











Other link : http://www.leagle.com/xmlResult.aspx?xmldoc=In%20PACO%2020110928498.xml&docbase=CSLWAR3-2007-CURR















Anne

"DEATH PENALTY OPPONENTS WHO TWIST THE TRUTH TO PROTECT KILLERS ARE ALSO TORTURING VICTIMS FAMILIES" (PETER BRONSON, CINCINNATI ENQUIRER,FEBRUARY 3, 2003)

PRO DEATH PENALTY AND PROUD OF IT !!!

JE MAINTIENDRAI (MOTTO OF WILLIAM I THE SILENT, PRINCE OF ORANGE, 1533 - 1584, MOTTO OF THE NETHERLANDS)

DEO JUVANTE (MOTTO OF THE PRINCIPALITY OF MONACO)

PROUD TO BE BELGIAN !!! I LOVE MY KINGDOM !!!

Offline turboprinz

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Westmoreland judge stays Travaglia execution
Published: Friday, March 1, 2013, 10:24 a.m.

 A Westmoreland County judge on Friday issued a stay against the execution of convicted cop killer Michael Travaglia.

Judge John Blahovec ruled that there are appeals pending before him that must be resolved before a date for execution can be scheduled.

Travaglia, 54, a former resident of Washington Township, was convicted in the “kill for thrill” murders when four people were murdered in an eight-day period between Christmas 1979 and Jan. 3, 1980.

He and John Lesko, 54, of Lincoln Place in Pittsburgh, were both condemned to death for the shooting of 21-year-old rookie police officer Leonard Miller. The Apollo officer was the last man to die in the random killing spree.

Travaglia shot Miller during a traffic stop in Washington Township. Gov. Tom Corbett this week signed a death warrant setting his death by lethal execution for April 25.

Travaglia won a new sentencing trial that ended with another death sentence in 2005.

The same day Corbett signed the death warrant, Blahovec appointed attorney Jeff Miller to handle Travaglia's latest appeal.

http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/3578969-74/travaglia-death-execution#axzz2MJf3aZyW
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