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.
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.