WILKES-BARRE —A non-jury Luzerne County homicide trial was continued Monday when prosecutors said they will appeal a judge’s ruling that prohibits preliminary hearing testimony from a witness who fled the country.
Joshua Carlos Ovalles, 20, was set to go to trial before Luzerne County President Judge Thomas F. Burke on charges he fatally shot Vaughn Kemp, 24, outside 174 S. Grant St., Wilkes-Barre, on July 7, 2013.
Prior to the trial that never started, Burke heard arguments from assistant district attorneys Frank McCabe and Ovalles’ attorney, Peter Moses, about the admittance of preliminary hearing testimony from alleged witness Erik Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, 18, fled the area earlier this year moving back to his native country, Dominican Republic.
Two city police detectives and a county detective testified that they made efforts to find Rodriguez learning he left the country, possibly in April.
Moses countered that Rodriguez was never “served” with a subpoena to appear to testify.
Burke agreed, ruling prosecutors never served Rodriguez with a subpoena, never requested to designate Rodriguez as a material witness when he turned 18-years-old in December and has made no efforts to return Rodriguez to Luzerne County to testify at the trial.
Assistant District Attorney Mamie Phillips said the ruling “handicaps” their prosecution and verbally told Burke that they will appeal his ruling.
Burke continued the trial generally due to the anticipated appeal.