Note: This post has been updated. Originally, the headline was Tupper’s Got To Go, and as we now know he’s out of the picture.
Would justice really have been served had Cody Lee, accused of killing his great grandfather, been allowed to walk on a district judge’s say so?
And while we understand he’s just doing his job, it’s strange hearing former Luzerne County District Attorney and Common Pleas judge, Peter Paul Olszewski Jr., Lee’s defense attorney, now railing against county prosecuters. He probably forgot that not long ago, he was playing for that team.
But when state police immediately rearrested his client after District Judge James Tupper threw out a homicide charge against him, Olszewski ranted that their action was “vindictive” and that, “Once again Luzerne County prosecutors are distinguishing themselves these days in the wrong way. It’s absolutely unbelievable.”
Vindictive? Let’s consider for a moment the possibility that prosecutors were simply appalled at Tupper’s rush to judgment by not even allowing this horrible case to proceed to the next level. Lee’s 80-year-old great grandfather was murdered, shot in the head. Prosecutors have reason to believe that Lee did it. Maybe he didn’t, but, seriously, should a district judge have the power to just let a suspect walk before a jury of his peers hears the case against him?
I have complained about district judges before. Take a look at some of those elected in Luzerne County. Most aren’t even lawyers. In my neck of the woods, two female attorneys ran for the office years ago only to be defeated by the son of the retiring district judge, who didn’t retire after all. He became a senior judge. Junior had no qualifications whatsoever, except name recognition. And these jobs pay pretty well, complete with all state benefits. Not bad for winning a popularity contest, taking a crash course and then poof, you’re called, “Your Honor.”
Tupper said the prosecutors did not present enough evidence to send the case to court. Well I, for one, would like to hear more about that notebook prosecutors claim Lee possessed and that contained handwritten descriptions of the murder plot. Olszewski objected that anyone could have been the author. Tell us more. NO, said Tupper. Case dismissed.
Tupper was expected to preside over a second preliminary hearing on Thursday, but the Luzerne County DA’s office asked county President Judge Thomas Burke to allow another district judge or a real judge to conduct the next one, and he complied.
Kingston District Judge Paul Roberts has been assigned to take over. We can imagine that Peter Paul is already mapping out his plans for an appeal if the case eventually does goes to trial.
“I think it is unprecedented that they would act as vindictively to Cody Lee as they did,” Olszewski said after his client was rearrested. He said police officers and prosecutors “should be acutely aware of the constitutional rights afforded to juveniles,” according to The Citizens’ Voice account. Here we go, a defense attorney playing the “kids for cash” card.
But what about the great grandfather, Herbert Lee Sr., who was shot in the head and died in 2009? Doesn’t he deserve justice? If Cody Lee is innocent, hopefully Peter Paul Olszewski will be able to convince a jury of that.
But this case should never have come to an abrupt end at a preliminary hearing - emphasis on preliminary. Having said that, it will be a real shocker if His Honor Roberts agrees with his colleague Tupper.
- Betty Roccograndi