A Westmoreland County judge Tuesday defended his decision to give a new trial to a Unity man accused of repeatedly raping a teen-aged girl for three years.
Common Pleas Court Judge Tim Krieger issued a three-page opinion in which he said evidence presented against Bruce Palmer, 34, during trial last year was not enough to warrant a conviction and the alleged victim’s emotional outbursts in court potentially swayed jurors towards a faulty verdict.
Krieger in April overturned Palmer’s rape conviction and his four to eight year prison sentence, a decision that has since been appealed by the county’s district attorney’s office. Prosecutors contend the judge abused his discretion and did not offer any reasons why a jury would have reached a different verdict.
“The court is well aware that it is not to act as a thirteenth juror or to reverse a conviction merely because it may disagree with the jury’s decision or would have decided the case differently if sitting as the finder of fact,” Krieger wrote. “The court, however, was in a unique position to view the trial as a whole and takes most seriously its obligation to ensure that the weight of the evidence supports a conviction.”
Krieger said he cited four specific reasons for vacating the guilty verdict.
He said the now 20-year-old victim’s testimony lacked corroborating detail and was vague about one specific incident. The judge questioned the accuser’s credibility with regards to her contention that Palmer raped her on a weekly basis for more than three years and the timing and context of her initial complaint.
Palmer contended at trial his accuser made up the allegations.
Krieger last month released Palmer from jail and ordered he be confined to his home pending the outcome of the appeal.
Palmer’s girlfriend, Marie Ann Farabaugh, 41, of Unity was convicted during the same trial of lesser charges. Jurors found her guilty of child endangerment and reckless endangerment for not intervening and stopping the alleged sexual assaults.
Farabaugh’s conviction was overturned and she is free pending the outcome of an appeal.