Friday, July 11, 2014

Cuadra claims ??duress,?? seeks retrial

March 16. 2013 6:50PM

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WILKES-BARRE – Luzerne County prosecutors want convicted murderer Harlow Cuadra to stay put.

Cuadra, 31, is seeking a new trial, claiming mistakes were made before and during the first jury trial in March 2009 that ended in a first-degree murder conviction. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole after the jury was unable to unanimously impose the death penalty.

State police at Wyoming and Dallas Township police had alleged Cuadra, of Virginia Beach, Va., killed Bryan Kocis, 44, inside Kocis' Midland Drive home in Dallas Township that was set ablaze on Jan. 24, 2007.

A co-conspirator in the case, Joseph Kerekes, 39, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in December 2008 and was sentenced to life in prison with no parole.

Investigators said Cuadra and Kerekes, who were partners in an escort business and website pornographic production company, planned the killing of Kocis, whom they considered their main rival.

Issues Cuadra raised in his petition for post-conviction relief include:

• His lawyers, Paul Walker and Joseph D'Andrea, did not have sufficient time to prepare for his defense. Walker and D'Andrea were hired in December 2008, about 90 days before the trial began.

• Kerekes was the actual killer.

• Witnesses testified Kerekes was an abusive boyfriend and business partner and controlled Cuadra.

• Walker and D'Andrea did not raise a duress defense due to Kerekes' controlling power over Cuadra.

• Disqualification of attorney Demetrius Fannick from defending Cuadra after Fannick had met Kerekes in jail. Cuadra and Kerekes had separate defense strategies.

• Trial Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. permitted prosecutors to play for the jury a video of Cuadra lifting weights.

Prosecutors claim they had a right to have Fannick disqualified from defending Cuadra because Cuadra and Kerekes wanted separate trials due to their antagonistic defenses.

Although Fannick was disqualified to defend Cuadra for the first trial, he is representing him in an attempt for a new trial.

Prosecutors also claim Cuadra never raised the duress issue when he testified in his own defense.

Cuadra is serving his sentence at the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township in Schuylkill County. He is scheduled to appear before Judge Fred Pierantoni III on March 15.

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