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Motion denial clears way for trial

| Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2001

A Fayette County man facing a possible death penalty in a double slaying had his pretrial motions denied Monday, clearing the way for trial.

Gerald E. Powell, 34, of Connellsville Township, is charged in the deaths of Edward and Karen Marie Povlik. The Povliks were found shot to death Jan. 1, 1995, a day after throwing a party to ring in the new year.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty because two people died in the shooting.

According to police, the Povliks were selling illicit drugs and had a dispute with another man, which led to the killings.

Powell, through his Pittsburgh attorney, Brent McCune, was seeking to have the charges against him thrown out.

McCune said in a hearing last week that Powell's best witness for an alibi had died, adversely affecting the defendant's chance to present the story to jurors.

McCune said prosecutors had most of the information they used to charge Powell in 1997, but chose to wait.

But Fayette County Judge Gerald R. Solomon denied the motion to throw out the charges without explanation in an order filed yesterday.

Solomon also granted a motion compelling prosecutors to turn over the identity of an informant who may have information beneficial to Powell.

The witness has told police that she does not want to come forward because she has forgotten what the information was she passed to police.

Solomon already denied several prongs of McCune's arguments.

In one, McCune had argued that Powell's case did not qualify for the death penalty because it dealt primarily with the testimony of informants and has a dearth of physical evidence.

McCune said it would be "cruel and unusual" to impose the death penalty solely on the testimony of informants.

McCune also argued that pretrial publicity had created an atmosphere that made it impossible to pick an impartial jury.

Solomon rejected the argument, however, saying that it could be raised again at the time of jury selection.

While Powell is in prison awaiting trial, his alleged co-conspirator was found not guilty of the homicides in July.

David Robertson was convicted of two counts of conspiracy to commit the homicides, however. He was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison.

Powell is housed in the Fayette County Prison without bond.

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