WILKES-BARRE — Defense attorneys in the homicide case against Joseph John Marchetti Jr. are employing a unique strategy: attempting to suppress evidence of Marchetti denying the crime he’s accused of.
Marchetti, 52, is accused of beating and then shooting his girlfriend, Antoinette Wilkinsin, 46, at their Foster Township home in January.
Prosecutors also say Marchetti beat Wilkinson’s mother, Barbara Wilkinson, 72, with a lead-filled club, then dragged her into the room where her daughter lay. He then shot himself in the face.
The younger Wilkinson passed away as a result of the attack. Prosecutors are pursuing the death penalty due to the crime’s severity.
Marchetti appeared in court on Monday before Luzerne County Judge William H. Amesbury as his defense team attempted to suppress statements he made while he attended his preliminary arraignment from a hospital room at Geisinger Wyoming Valley. Defense attorneys are suggesting this evidence was gathered inappropriately.
Monday’s hearing featured testimony by Pennsylvania State Police Corporal Shawn Williams, who attended Marchetti’s preliminary arraignment. It was through Williams’ iPhone, using the video calling app FaceTime, that Marchetti was able to “appear” before Magisterial District Judge Daniel O’Donnell from his hospital bed.
Williams said he asked Marchetti a handful of yes-or-no questions, not involving the case, to determine if he had the wherewithal to proceed with the arraignment.
After O’Donnell read the charges, Williams said on the stand, O’Donnell asked Marchetti if he understood them. Marchetti allegedly repeatedly shook his head “no,” asking for a piece of paper to write on.
On the paper, Williams said, Marchetti wrote “not g,” leading Williams to ask if he meant “not guilty.” Marchetti indicated that’s what he meant, and later also wrote “I didn’t do it.”
On cross examination, defense attorney Jonathan Blum seemed to imply that Williams’ “questioning” of Marchetti was inappropriate, citing issues such as Williams not reading Marchetti his Miranda rights — Williams claims O’Donnell did this — and not asking a doctor if the medication Marchetti was on would cloud his judgement.
Williams countered, explaining that his questions of Marchetti were not interrogation so to speak, but rather just for clarification of his mental state and what his stilted written answer meant.
“He was clear and capable of understanding but he wasn’t capable of writing the word ‘guilty’?” Blum asked.
“You’d have to ask your client that,” Williams said.
Amesbury is allowing the defense 10 days to issue a response to Monday’s hearing to show cause for suppressing Marchetti’s apparent denial of the crime.
Marchetti is scheduled to go to trial starting on Feb. 19, 2019. Amesbury has two full weeks reserved for the trial.
Until then, Marchetti remains at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility.
Reach Patrick Kernan at570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan