After a day of testimony where District Attorney James Goodman saw two police officers and one of the victim’s friends testify that Brandon Piekarsky was NOT the person who fatally kicked Luis Ramirez in the head, his battered prosecution team will look to recover during closing arguments today. The “trial of the decade” has not gone according to plan for Schuylkill County’s top law enforcement official. It was all supposed to be a slam dunk, but after days of contradictory testimony from Goodman’s own witnesses and the stirring revelations that eyewitnesses identified Brian Scully as the kicker from the police who arrived on the scene first, some trial watchers believe that an acquittal on the murder and manslaughter counts is completely feasible.
West Mahanoy Township police officer Robert Senape and Frackville police officer Michelle Ashman both testified yesterday that eyewitness Arielle Garcia clearly identified Brian Scully, charged as a juvenile in this case and who testified for the prosecution earlier this week, as the teen who kicked Ramirez in the head as he lay unconscious on the street. Mysteriously, that fact never ended up in any official investigation report. Chief Schuylkill County Detective Anthony Carroll claimed that he was never told about Garcia’s Scully identification, but Senape did have a face to face meeting with both Carroll and DA Goodman later on. However, the context of that meeting was excluded from evidence by President Judge William Baldwin.
Hmmmm, something just doesn’t seem right about this.
Although he was the chief investigator on this case, prosecutors did not call Carroll as a witness, but lead defense counsel Fred Fanelli sure did. He thundered away on Carroll asking him why he did not further investigate “the shoe question”, which refers to earlier testimony from a Ramirez friend that said the person who kicked Ramirez was wearing white and blue shoes. Piekarsky was wearing blue and gray shoes that night, but Scully was wearing white and blue ones.
These revelations further highlight what has become a continuing trend for the prosecution: witnesses who have contradicted themselves and the prosecution’s theory of the case on the witness stand.
First, on Day 1, the neighbor who first heard the fight and called 911 testified differently than what she said on the 911 tape, which was played for the jury. Then, on Day 2, Colin Walsh and Brian Scully, two teens who were key participants in the fatal melee (Scully was the first to approach and punch Ramirez, while Walsh landed the sucker punch that floored Ramirez) were skewered on cross-examination by Fanelli due to their changing their stories multiple times over the course of the case.
For weeks, Scully denied even being at the scene. Later he admitted his involvement, but said that there wasn’t a kick. It was only after he made a deal with Goodman to be charged only as a juvenile that Scully said Piekarsky landed the final kick. It is the defense’s contention that Scully is the person who kicked Ramirez in the head.
Walsh, the prosecution’s star witness and recipient of a sweetheart deal in exchange for his testimony, couldn’t seem to get his story straight either. He gave three different statements to police, all of which contradicted his testimony on Tuesday. Walsh punched Ramirez in the side of the head when he wasn’t looking, which led to Ramirez falling to ground and hitting his head off the street. He was originally charged with murder, manslaughter, assault, and ethnic intimidation (the same as Piekarsky and Donchak), but they were all dropped by Goodman after Walsh plead guilty to a Fair Housing Act violation in federal court and agreed to testify against his two best friends.
All of this points to lead prosecutor Robert Frantz needing a stellar closing argument today, if this case is to be saved at all.