When Schuylkill County President Judge William E. Baldwin issued a press release earlier this week that indicated the date of the long-awaited murder trial of three Shenandoah teens in connection with the beating death an illegal Mexican immigrant had been set, something was mysteriously missing . . . . the third defendant’s name on the docket. As a result, speculation has been rampant around the county about why Colin Walsh will not be sitting at the defense table with his buddies Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak.
Neither Judge Baldwin or District Attorney James Goodman would provide many straight answers other than Walsh still had charges pending. Up until now, the three teens had been scheduled to stand trial together. With such a sudden change to the schedule less than a week before jury selection is slated to begin, it doesn’t take a Perry Mason to figure out what is probably happening. In my opinion, it looks as though Walsh has turned state’s evidence and will probably testify against his cohorts.
What bothers me about such a deal with is that it remains unclear who actually killed Luis Ramirez last July. The prosecution’s theory is as follows:
(1) A group of six teens were involved in the incident. All of them were drunk
(2) Piekarsky and Brian Scully yelled racial epitaths at Ramirez as they passed him on the street.
(3) Scully engaged Ramirez in the first fight.
(4) Ramirez fought him off and was able to call a buddy for help.
(5) Donchak then engaged Ramirez in a second fight.
(6) Ramirez again fought him off.
(7) Piekarsky, Walsh, and Donchak then engaged Ramirez in a third altercation
(8) While Ramirez was looking at Donchak, Walsh sucker-punched him in the side of the head, knocking Ramirez to the ground and his head off the pavement.
(9) While Ramirez was down all three kicked him in the body.
(10) Piekarsky landed the final blow, kicking Ramirez in the side of the head.
Medical officials reported that Ramirez died as a result of severe brain injuries from his head hitting the ground via the Walsh punch and being kicked in the head by Piekarsky. However, they could not ascertain what blow actually killed him. Judge Baldwin ruled at an earlier hearing that the evidence was sufficient to charge both Piekarsky and Walsh with third degree murder because both of their actions led to the injuries that simultaneously killed Ramirez. That is a very legally sound decision. However, in reality, it is entirely possible that Ramirez was dead when his head hit the ground. Piekarsky’s kick might not have even mattered.
So, if DA Goodman has decided to make a deal with Walsh to secure a conviction of Piekarsky and Donchak, he could be, at worst, pleading down the actual murderer of Luis Ramirez, while at best, be pleading down a coward who blind-sided a guy in a 3-on-1 fight.
It is my view that this is a purely political decision by Jim Goodman. Since the outset of the investigation, Goodman has taken every opportunity to mug for the national media cameras. Now, with the bright lights squarely on his office (of course, not him personally, because Goodman will not be lead trial counsel for the prosecution, one of his assistants is as per the usual for the Schuylkill DA) and his re-election looming in the fall, Goodman can ill-afford any type of screw-up, especially with the finest criminal defense attorney money can buy, Fred Fanelli, sitting on the other side of the courtroom.
Just like with his record of pleading down 48% of all drug offenders in this county just to clear some backlogged files off his desk, Goodman is opting to sacrifice the delivery of justice by issuing a get out of jail free card to one of main perpetrators in this case for the purpose of ensuring that he gets his picture and a glowing write-up in the New York Times.