Defense attorney seeks separate trials for Barbours
SUNBURY - Defense attorney Edward Greco, who believes trying accused murderers Elytte and Miranda Barbour together would be "highly prejudicial" to his client, has filed a motion for separate trials.
That pre-trial motion and several others filed by the chief public defender will be argued during a hearing at 1:15 p.m. Feb. 26 in Courtroom 1 at Northumberland County Courthouse as per the order of Judge Charles Saylor.
"The issue of spousal privilege would complicate the case if both husband and wife are tried together," Greco, who represents Miranda Barbour, stated in his motion for severance.
In another development, Greco, who is awaiting discovery evidence from the district attorney's office, was granted permission Monday by Saylor to hire forensic and general psychiatrist Dr. Clarence Watson of Bala Cynwyd at $400 per hour to conduct an exam on Miranda Barbour at Northumber-land County Prison. Watson's fees are not to exceed $10,000.
The commonwealth must be provided the report no later than 30 days after the defense receives it.
Watson's fee schedule also includes a $1,600 retainer, $400 per hour for review of depositions, records, reports or other data, $400 per hour for a conference with Greco or others as required, $400 per hour for deposition, and a daily rate of $3,500 for testimony in court.
Saylor deferred taking action on Greco's request to hire mitigating expert Louise Luck of Court Consultation Services, New York, N.Y., at $100 per hour plus expenses to help prepare an adequate mitigation defense in the event the trial proceeds to the death penalty phase.
In addition to the severance issue, Greco's motions include a change of venue (moving the trial outside the county) and/or venire (selecting a jury from outside
the county) because of the extensive publicity surrounding the case, in which some have dubbed the husband-and-wife Barbours as the "Craigslist killers" because victim Troy LaFerrara answered Miranda Barbour's Internet ad offering companionship for money prior to being killed. The defense also is seeking to suppress statements, including an alleged confession given to police by Miranda Barbour during interviews Dec. 1 and Dec. 2.
Greco and assistant defense counsel Paige Rosini claim the alleged confession was obtained illegally because their client was not provided an attorney at the interviews despite repeatedly requesting one.
The attorneys are seeking all statements and police reports at least two weeks prior to a suppression hearing and want to hire a private investigator and computer/electronics expert to review LaFerrara's computer and cell phones.
Greco and Paige Rosini want to quash aggravating circumstances in the case that would allow the commonwealth to seek the death penalty. District attorney Tony Rosini previously pointed out that police allege torture was used and a felony offense of robbery (LaFerrara's wallet was stolen) was committed during the killing. Torture and robbery are among 18 aggravating circumstances in death penalty cases in Pennsylvania.
The defense lawyers want to sequester the jury and prevent any potential jurors in favor of the death penalty from being selected because they believe they would be "pro-prosecution and pro-conviction."
They also prefer having separate juries for the guilt and penalty phases of the trial and oppose the imposition of the death penalty.
At the Feb. 26 hearing, Saylor will hear motions pertaining to the defense's claim that the commonwealth failed to establish a prima facie case against Miranda Barbour at her preliminary hearing, suppression of statements, employing a private investigator, hiring a computer/electronics expert and barring imposition of the death penalty.
The judge has deferred ruling on the other defense motions, claiming they are premature at this time.
Last week, Saylor granted defense attorney James Best's request to hire Dr. Neil Blumberg of Timonium, Md., a board-certified forensic psychiatrist, to examine accused murderer Elytte Randall Barbour at Columbia County Prison to determine if he is competent to stand trial.
Blumberg will be paid $600 per hour and his expenses are not to exceed $10,000.
The county will be responsible for the costs of both psychiatrists in the case because the Barbours are indigent.
Elytte Barbour, 22, and his 19-year-old wife are charged by Sunbury police with murdering LaFerrara, 42, a married environmental engineer from Port Trevorton, on Nov. 11 in Sunbury. Police said the victim was stabbed approximately 20 times.
LaFerrara answered a Craigslist ad from Miranda Barbour in which she offered companionship for money, police said. Upon her arrest Dec. 3, she said she stabbed LaFerrara after he groped her and grabbed her throat.
Three days later when he was charged, Elytte Barbour told police he and his wife were both involved, and that they had devised a plot to kill LaFerrara because they wanted to kill someone together.
The Barbours had moved to Selinsgrove from North Carolina shortly before the homicide.
Tony Rosini, who wants to prosecute the couple together, announced last month that he will seek the death penalty for the Barbours.