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Stollar's lawyers make appeal to state Supreme Court

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By Bobby Kerlik
Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011

An attorney for a Washington County man on death row for murdering an Upper St. Clair grandmother argued to the state Supreme Court today that his client deserves a new trial because the trial judge improperly limited his right to testify on his own behalf.

An Allegheny County jury in 2008 sentenced Patrick Stollar, now 33, of Washington to die by lethal injection for stomping, strangling and stabbing Jean Heck, 78, days after he landscaped her yard. Stollar defended himself in the guilt phase of the trial, arguing he was mentally ill at the time of the June 4, 2003, killing.

During the case, Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman prevented Stollar from testifying in a rambling, narrative format. The judge gave Stollar the option of having his stand-by attorney question him on the stand or to come up with questions he could ask himself, said Stollar's appellate attorney Ken Snarey.

"The limitations imposed by the lower court deprived the defendant of his right to testify," Snarey said. "(Stollar's) position is that if the jury was to observe him testifying, they would have been more likely to consider his mental state."

Assistant District Attorney Nicole Wetherton argued that Cashman gave Stollar two reasonable methods to testify but Stollar declined.

Heck's daughter, Andrea Kostella, watched the arguments and said it was hard to put into words what her feelings were.

"We feel confident that the outcome of today's proceedings will further support the justice handed down against Patrick Stollar," she wrote in a brief statement.

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