EBENSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania man serving life in prison for his ex-wife's slaying 25 years ago deserves a new trial because a prosecutor — who is now a sitting judge — didn't disclose blood evidence that might have helped him, a judge has ruled.
Kevin Charles Siehl, now 60, has maintained his innocence since his first-degree murder conviction for the July 1991 stabbing death of ex-wife Christine Siehl, who was found dead in a bathtub with the shower still running.
In Siehl's latest appeal, Centre County Judge David Grine ruled last week that then-prosecutor David Tulowitzki wrongly failed to disclose the evidence during Siehl's 1992 trial.
The judge said the omission "so undermined the truth determining process that no reliable adjudication of guilt or innocence could have taken place."
Grine also found fault with then-defense lawyer Linda Rovner Fleming for failing to challenge evidence, including a bloody fingerprint that was used to tie Siehl to the crime scene.
Grine is handling the appeal to avoid a conflict of interest in the Cambria County case since Tulowitzki and Fleming are now Cambria County judges.
Tulowitzki and Fleming both declined comment when contacted by The Associated Press on Friday.
Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan also isn't handling the case because she was an intern for attorneys on the original defense team. Still, she issued a statement calling Grine's findings "very concerning" and distancing her office from Tulowitzki's prosecution of the case.
"None of the current employees in this office, including me, worked here in 1992 when these alleged acts occurred," Callihan said.
Callihan has referred the case to the state Attorney General's Office, which must decide whether to appeal Grine's ruling.
In an earlier appeal, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a hearing on the effectiveness of Siehl's defense attorneys. At that 2012 hearing, Fleming testified that the defense didn't challenge the fingerprint because a forensic expert for the defense had also found evidence that Siehl was at the crime scene around the time of the killing.
Fleming testified that if defense attorneys challenged evidence that Siehl's fingerprint was found on a shower head, then prosecutors could have asked the defense expert about other evidence that implicated Siehl.
But Grine found that failing to challenge the fingerprint "effectively admitted that Petitioner (Siehl) was the murderer."
The earlier appeals also disclosed that Tulowitzki got confidential information from the defense expert that resulted in Siehl's shoes being retested for blood. Prosecutors believed the blood was the victim's. But the tests, completed just before trial, supported Siehl's claim that the blood was his, Grine said.
By withholding that information, Tulowitzki was able to suggest to the jury that Siehl's shoes were only tested once, that the prosecution's expert found crime scene blood on the shoes and that Siehl lied by claiming the blood was his, Grine found.
Because the blood evidence information was obtained during the federal appeal, federal public defender Christopher Brown has continued to represent Siehl in the state court appeal that resulted in Grine's ruling. Brown declined comment Friday.