Reporter will not have to testify in Barbour hearing
SUNBURY - A local newspaper reporter will not have to testify at Tuesday's hearing for accused murderer Miranda Barbour because Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Rosini said he has another witness who can provide the same information.
During a 10-minute hearing Friday morning before Judge Charles Saylor, Rosini withdrew his subpoena ordering Francis Scarcella of The Daily Item to testify about a recorded interview he conducted last month with Barbour at Northumberland County Prison, in which she allegedly admitted killing at least 22 people, including 42-year-old Troy LaFerrara, of Port Trevorton.
Although Rosini did not identify the other witness, it is believed to be a female correctional officer at the county prison who supervised the reporter's visit and compiled a report. Rosini said he just learned Friday morning about the other witness being able to provide the same information.
Efforts to obtain the witness' identity from various sources were unsuccessful.
The district attorney said he was confident his request to have Scarcella testify would have been upheld by Saylor despite a motion filed by an attorney representing The Daily Item and Scarcella to quash the subpoena.
Rosini said he was required to show the information Scarcella would have provided wasn't available from other sources and that the reporter's testimony was crucial to the murder case.
The district attorney cited a 2003 Pennsylvania Supreme Court case known as Commonwealth vs. Bowden that resulted in a reporter who allegedly obtained a murder confession in Philadelphia being ordered to testify in court.
Attorney Michael J. Grygiel of Greenberg Traurig LLP, Albany, N.Y., who represented the newspaper and Scarcella, claimed his client did not have to testify under the law, but was pleased Rosini withdrew the subpoena.
Grygiel and Gary Grossman, publisher of The Daily Item, declined comment after the hearing.
Northumberland County Chief Public Defender Edward Greco, who represents 19-year-old Miranda Barbour, and James Best, an independent conflicts counsel for the county who serves as 22-year-old Elytte Barbour's attorney, both attended the hearing, but declined comment.
Tuesday's hearing, which starts at 9:15 a.m., will involve argument over several motions filed by Greco, who is seeking to compel discovery evidence from the district attorney's office. Rosini said he plans to call one or two witnesses.
Saylor recently approved Greco's request to hire senior investigator Bernard E. Howard, of Stathill Investigations, Lewistown, to assist him in the case.
The county will be responsible for paying Howard's fees, including travel expenses.
Earlier this month, Saylor granted a motion by Best to appoint Jean M. Landis, of Bethlehem, as a mitigation expert to assist the lawyer in preparing a mitigation defense in the event his client's trial proceeds to the death penalty phase.
Landis' expenses also will be paid by the county since both Barbours are indigent.
The Barbours recently moved from North Carolina to Selinsgrove prior to allegedly killing LaFerrara, who was found stabbed to death Nov. 11 in the backyard of a home in the 200 block of Catawissa Avenue.
Sunbury Patrolman Travis Bremigen said Friday that Barbour's claims of killing numerous people are still being investigated. He did not confirm nor deny if the claims have merit.
Miranda Barbour is currently being held at Northumberland County Prison until her 9:15 a.m. hearing Tuesday is concluded. After the hearing, she is expected to be transferred back to SCI-Muncy. Her husband also is in the county jail.