ShareThis Page

Wrongful conviction suit could be costly for Fayette County taxpayers

Renatta Signorini
| Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, 11:03 p.m.
David Munchinski, 59, talks to the media after being released from SCI-Pittsburgh on Friday, September 30, 2011 after serving 25 years in prison. (Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review)
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
David Munchinski, 59, talks to the media after being released from SCI-Pittsburgh on Friday, September 30, 2011 after serving 25 years in prison. (Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review)

The Fayette commissioners got an update from an attorney Tuesday on a federal civil rights lawsuit against two former county prosecutors and learned how much the case could cost the county, according to Commissioner Vince Zapotosky.

The update was provided during a 20-minute executive session called during an agenda meeting.

David Munchinski, formerly of Latrobe, is suing former prosecutors Ralph Warman and Gerald Solomon, alleging that they withheld key evidence in a double-homicide case against Munchinski, whose 1986 conviction for killing two men in Bear Rocks was overturned by a federal judge.

Munchinski was freed in 2011. Charges against him were dismissed two years later when prosecutors failed to retry the case.

Munchinski claims Solomon and Warman — who are now judges — destroyed a tape in which a key witness said he had no knowledge of the crime. That witness testified that he watched the Dec. 2, 1977, slayings of James “Petey” Alford, 24, and Raymond Gierke, 28, at Gierke's home. But during Munchinski's appeal, evidence turned up that the witness was out of state at the time of the shootings.

Zapotosky said attorney Thomas Pellis, who represents Warman and Solomon, gave the commissioners an estimate for legal fees to consider working into the county's budget. He provided commissioners with possible outcomes of the case and what their legal position is, Zapotosky said.

“This case is going to cost the taxpayers a lot of money,” Zapotosky said.

Munchinski is seeking unspecified damages from the defendants named in the lawsuit for allegedly denying his right to a fair trial, post-conviction and habeas corpus relief.

Warman and Solomon, now senior judges in Fayette County, and a late state police trooper, George Fayock, are defendants in the lawsuit.

Renatta Signorini is a Trib Total Media staff writer. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.

click me