Sixth day of Vojtas Trial - Nov. 9

Part 1, By Joel Scilley

Notes from Saturday morning's testimony.

Dr. Reay-- pathologist from Oregon testifying for defense.

defense positioned him as Cyril Wecht's equivalent.

He basically suggested that at a "dynamic scene" comments from witnesses are contradictory.

He said that he would put Gammage's death in "an accidental category."

His testimony further suggested that some of the damage to Gammage might have been caused by CPR.

Defense also got him to suggest that exhaustion and adrenaline rush "could" have caused gammage to die.

Further he described the officers acts as "neutral."

He also suggested that the first time you could tell someone was in danger of asphyxiation was when they become unconscious. (Handy testimony this. Ignores Gammages kicking, etc. DA did not ask about other signs in cross examination).

Under cross examination, Krastek got Reay to say "I think this man died of restraint asphyxia," partially invalidating the speculation about exhaustion, etc.

Krastek asked if he had seen Vojtas' police report made 5 hours after events. Reay said he didn't remember the document. This led up to an implied argument that Allegheny county coroner was in a better position to judge than Reay.

I had to leave after this to go to the protest at 12pm.

Part 2, By Gordon Mitchell

After lunch today, the defense called one witness then rested its case, and the prosecution called one rebuttal witness and rested. After about 30 minutes of testimony from these two witnesses, court adjourned for the weekend, and closing arguments are slated for Monday. I did not attend the morning session, which included more forensic testimony from the defense re: the "adrenaline rush" hypothesis as cause of death.

Specifics on the two afternoon witnesses:

Defense witness: Robert Rich, manager for Courier Express. Trained prosecution witness Belajac on July 11 and 12, 1996. While driving around during training, testified that Belajac said "don't be upset if there's a car following us; it could be the Feds; they want me to testify in the Gammage case." According to Rich, Belajac went on to say "I don't want to get involved, I didn't see anything. As I passed the scene, all I saw was police cars and lights."

Defense rested.

Prosecution rebuttal witness: Patricia Menna, AAA manager in East Liberty. Called to rebut the testimony of defense witness Cathleen Diffendale, who testified (yesterday?) that during a tow call, Belajac said that he didn't see anything at the scene. Menna presented documents showing the tow dispatches that were made in response to Diffendale's four requests for AAA assistance in the last two years. In each of the four instances, AAA sent Dadee towing to help Diffendale. Belajac did not work for Dadee towing, but instead worked for Steel City towing during this time. Implication from prosecution: Diffendale could not have had the conversation with Belajac that she described in court.

Prosecution rested.

Vojtas did not testify.

Outside the courtroom, there was much media speculation about the effect of the defense's decision not to call Vojtas to the stand. Jennifer Guinee, a lawyer for the Gammage family, told reporters that Vojtas' viewpoint was not completely excluded from the trail proceedings, because the police report provided his account of events. However, she pointed out that the contradictions and inconsistencies between the report and other testimony may temper the positive impact of the report as a stand-in for direct testimony.

The rally outside the courthouse at noon was strong (approx 40-50), and pretty loud. Some "honk your horn if you want justice for Jonny" signs got quite a few passing motorists into the action.


Gordon Mitchell, University of Pittsburgh

Part 3, By Kate Daher


great coverage but with one correction. The count at the rally was between 65 and 75 people! Joel did the counting....Great and spirited rally as you pointed out!

No Justice, No Peace


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