Hugo Selenski, the man charged with strangling two people in 2002 during a robbery, now faces the jury’s decision as to whether he should receive a life sentence or whether the death penalty should be considered.
Selenski’s lawyers addressed a judge on Tuesday, urging him to bar the jury from considering the death penalty after the moratorium on the death penalty that Pennsylvania’s governor declared. This motion was filed by Selenski’s defense attorneys just days before the start of the trial’s penalty phase.
Governor Tom Wolf took office last month and is still waiting to receive reports from the legislative commission responsible for studying the matter of death penalty in Pennsylvania, which the governor views as “error prone, expensive and anything but infallible”.
Despite the defense team’s attempt at taking the death penalty off the table, Judge Fred A Pierantoni III of Luzerne County ruled that the sentencing hearing would take place today and that the jury would, indeed, decide if the man should die for the crime he committed.
Selenski was convicted on Wednesday on two separate counts of first-degree murder, as well as additional charges, in the killing of Michael Kerkowski (37) and Tammi Fassett (37). One of the victims, Michael Kerkowski was a pharmacist and dealt in illegal selling of prescription pain medication. Selenski, together with an accomplice, Paul Weakley (45) attempted to rob Kerkowski for the illegally-obtained money.
The second victim, Fassett, was not a part of Selenski’s and Weakley’s plan, however, she too died after arriving with her boyfriend, Kerkowski, at his home on May 3rd 2002. It was only a year later that the bodies of the two victims were discovered.
Now that the penalty phase opened on February 17th, jurors will decide on an appropriate penalty for Selenski: either life in prison or death by lethal injection (which would be required in such cases because of the multiple-homicide and the fact that Selenski tortured his victims before killing them).
What Selenski’s defense team now has to do is prepare a set of mitigating factors which would speak against the aggravating circumstances justifying the death penalty.
Until now, Pennsylvania has only executed three convicts since the death penalty was restored by a US Supreme Court ruling in 1976. In all three cases, the convicts voluntarily gave up their appeals.
Image Source: Citizens Voice
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