Defender plans to quit Daniels murder case in Fayette County
A Pittsburgh attorney told a Fayette County judge on Monday that his law partner and wife likely will withdraw as counsel for one of two Connellsville men accused of homicide.
Husband and wife attorneys William and Lea Bickerton of Bickerton and Bickerton represent Robert Leroy Daniels Jr., 43, and Daniels' son, Robert Leroy Daniels III, 18.
The men are accused of homicide in the June 2011 stabbing death of David Gida. Gida died of stab wounds in the neck in his Connellsville apartment. A gold necklace, a silver ring and other items were missing.
William Bickerton represents the father. Lea Bickerton represents the son.
In motions filed in July, Assistant District Attorney Anthony Iannamorelli had sought to have the attorneys disqualified because of a conflict of interest. Having attorneys from the same law firm represent clients with different interests is a conflict, he argued, because it could limit their representation of their clients.
William Bickerton, during a hearing in the case on Monday, said Lea Bickerton likely will withdraw once Wagner issues rulings in pretrial motions. Those motions seek to bar as trial evidence both men's statements to police and physical evidence gathered in the investigation.
Should Lea Bickerton withdraw as Daniels III's attorney, she will request that Wagner appoint an attorney to represent him, William Bickerton said. Lea Bickerton did not attend Monday's hearing because it did not involve her client, he said.
The hearing on Monday was a continuance of an earlier hearing on the pretrial motions seeking to bar the evidence.
During the hearing, Connellsville Police Sgt. Ryan Reese testified that Daniels Jr. initially requested an attorney when he was brought from Highlands Hospital to the police station and taken to a room where state police Trooper John Marshall was waiting.
“When he seen Trooper Marshall, he said, ‘(expletive) you, Marshall, I want an attorney,' ” Reese testified.
Advised that Marshall was there only to inform him that his son had implicated him in the murder and that both were to be charged with homicide, Daniels Jr. told the officers that only he was responsible for the stabbing, Reese testified.
“Mr. Daniels said, ‘My son had nothing to do with it. I killed him,' ” Reese testified.
Reese testified he and Marshall left the room briefly and when they returned, he repeatedly asked Daniels Jr. if he wanted an attorney. Daniels Jr. declined legal representation, Reese testified, and signed forms waiving his rights before he gave a written statement.
On cross-examination, Reese could not recall if he was made aware before, or after, the interview that Daniels Jr. had been brought to the police station immediately after he was discharged from Highland's psychiatric unit.
Jim McElhaney, a retired state trooper, testified Daniels Jr. signed rights waivers when he administered a polygraph exam to him on Aug. 12, 2011. McElhaney did not reveal the results of the exam.
Wagner did not rule on the motions to exclude the evidence, pending the submission of additional, written arguments from attorneys for both sides.
Daniels Jr. and Daniels III are in the Fayette County Prison without bond.
Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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