Harlow Cuadra is appealing his conviction of life without parole for the killing of Cobra video owner Bryan Kocis. In a court filing, lawyers for Cuadra stated that Cuadra “hereby appeals to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania from the conviction and sentence on March 16, 2009.
Cuadra’s former lover and business partner, 35-year-old Joseph Kerekes, already is serving life after pleading guilty last December to second degree murder after making a deal with prosecutors.
Kocis’ body was discovered in his home in 2006 by firefighters responding to a blaze in the rural home. More than 80 percent of the body was covered by third-degree burns and police said the fire had been set deliberately to destroy evidence. Forensics experts were able to resurrect the hard drive of a computer found at the scene. The contents led investigators to Cuadra and Kerekes.
Cuadra and Kerekes saw Kocis as a competitor. The 27-year-old Cuadra had faced a death sentence, but the jury of eight men and four women could not reach a unanimous decision on whether the prosecution had met the burden of proof that the death penalty was appropriate.
During his trial, Cuadra took the stand in his own defense and testified that Kerekes was a controller. He said that Kerekes managed his e-mail accounts and held Cuadra’s credit and identification cards at all times, even when they went out. Cuadra, crying openly, told the jury that as a child he had been sexually abused by his stepfather and hid his homosexuality until he left the Navy.
But two police officers who arrested the pair offered conflicting testimony. Luzerne County Detective Daniel Yersha told the court that after Cuadra listened to the charges he told investigators that Kerekes was not involved.
“He said, ‘Joe didn’t do it,’” Yersha testified. A second detective involved in the arrest, Dallas Township police Sgt. Doug Higgins, corroborated Yersha’s testimony. Higgins said that after the charges were read, something that took 75 minutes, he asked Cuadra if he were hungry. “He blurted out, Joe didn’t do it,” Higgins testified.
A forensics investigator testified that a laptop computer seized from Cuadra’s home had several pictures of Kocis saved to it, as well as nude photos of Cuadra that were sent to Kocis just days before the killing. The prosecution argued that the photos of Kocis were to help Cuadra identify him, and that the nude shots of Cuadra were meant as a lure to get into Kocis’ home.
What About The Appeal Process ?
By Matthew Conaster: The Notice of Appeal is required to be filed within the time allowed by statue (usually 10-30 days following final judgment). Its a simple form and doesn’t set forth the grounds or argument of why he is appealing.
Following this filing of the Notice of Appeal the higher court’s clerk will docket the appeal and a time schedule is set by the Appellant Court as to when the briefs are to be filed.
Typically the court will order the verbatim transcripts to be prepared by the court’s reporter and address and rule on any matters concerning the defendant’s petition if any to proceed In Forma Pauperis (latin for ‘broke as fuck’) before the appeals process truly begins.
I would suspect Harlow has no funds to retain counsel for his direct appeal. Since a direct appeal is a constitutional right afforded to any criminal defendant the court will be required to appoint counsel to represent Harlow on appeal if they find Harlow has no means to employ counsel. His trial attorneys (who were retained during trial) may end up most likely not representing Harlow on appeal and the court will appoint counsel from a pool of attorneys usually more experienced with appeals.
Once the initial brief is filed the Commonwealth Attorney General’s office will answer the brief in writing. This process will take many months to complete before the Appeals Court will consider and rule on the appeal.
If the Commonwealth Appeals Court Affirms Harlow’s verdict and sentence then Harlow may petition the US Supreme Court for a Writ of Certiorari to hear the appeal court’s decision. If that fails Harlow will then have no other course to fight his case short of another action known as Writ of Habeas Corpus which is basically a post conviction petition that usually shows things like new evidence coming forth or some other matter not then known to everyone during the course of the initial trial.
All of these appeal hearings will be mostly done on paper with no appearance in court by Harlow himself. The appeals court may grant a few minutes to Harlow’s attorney for an oral argument before the panel of appeal judges – but short of that this will all be done on paper. Meanwhile Harlow will learn about all of this via US Mail. In fact more people will know about what’s going on before Harlow himself knows.
Bottom-line as I see it, Harlow’s trial was more than fair and short of some new evidence that would appear to show him innocent of the crime he doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell.
His best bet will be to become a model inmate and hope somewhere in the future the laws may change and afford him a chance at parole or a reduction in his sentence for being a good boy. This is a very likely event that may come to pass as prisons become more crowded and politics shift away from anti-crime legislature. The late 1960s were the last era of this type of current change. They say history repeats itself. In 30-40 years Harlow MAY once again walk the streets.
story credit: 365gay.com