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Fayette man's retrial in slaying delayed

| Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A Fayette County man convicted and sentenced to death in 1988 for the stabbing death of Saundra Marie Martin a year earlier will not face retrial until at least December.

Mark David Breakiron appeared via video conference Thursday from the State Correctional Institution at Greene County before Judge Steve Leskinen.

He agreed to the continuance, waiving his right to a speedy trial.

Breakiron, who turned 52 on Thursday, won a new trial when a federal judge ruled in May 2011 that prosecutors withheld evidence about a jailhouse snitch that could have been used to impeach his testimony against Breakiron.

The retrial was scheduled to begin next month before Leskinen, but will be delayed pending another appeal.

Clad in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffed, Breakiron sat at a table in a prison conference room and took notes during the proceeding.

Defense attorneys Dianne Zerega and Sam Davis made a motion to continue the trial, as Davis plans to petition the state Supreme Court for an allowance of an appeal.

Zerega told Leskinen she will be out of town in October and is still trying to locate two experts who previously evaluated Breakiron and whose testimony might be necessary if a retrial goes to the penalty phase. She said she would be unable to prepare for trial before December.

Prosecutors said Breakiron stabbed Martin, a waitress at Shenanigan's Lounge, 20 times on March 24, 1987, then took her purse and the German Township's bar receipts.

Jailhouse informant Ellis Price has since died and his previous testimony, including that Breakiron told him he waited in a bathroom for the bar to close before attacking Martin, will not be introduced at the retrial, according to court documents.

The retrial was placed on hold when Davis, Breakiron's court-appointed attorney, filed an appeal in state Superior Court seeking to overturn Leskinen's decisions denying a claim of double jeopardy and allowing the aggravating circumstances of torture and robbery at the retrial.

A panel of three Superior Court judges recently quashed the appeal without even considering Davis' arguments.

In court records, the judges said although Leskinen approved the appeal to Superior Court, Davis was still required to file a petition with the higher court seeking permission to do so before he filed the actual appeal.

In addition, the judges said Davis missed a 30-day deadline to appeal Leskinen's denial of the double jeopardy claim.

Following the Superior Court's findings, Leskinen issued an order scheduling Thursday's pretrial conference. Absent the continuance, jury selection was to begin on Tuesday.

Davis said he intends to appeal the Superior Court decision to the state Supreme Court.

A retrial could go beyond December if the Supreme Court agrees to hear an appeal. In that case, Leskinen said, Common Pleas Court might be deprived of jurisdiction.

Breakiron looked up at one point during Thursday's proceedings and inquired about three women seated in the back of the room, including Martin's sister, a cousin and a friend.

“Are they related to this case?” Breakiron asked.

“I am Saundra's sister,” Linda Angel said.

“It shouldn't make any difference. This is a public proceeding,” Leskinen told Breakiron.

“He's never said he's sorry for murdering my sister,” said Angel, 57, of North Union.

She will be at his next trial, she said on Thursday, fulfilling a promise she made to her late father, Thomas W. Martin.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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