Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Pa.: Conviction overturned in 1987 killing

The utterly obnoxious practice of relying on a "jailhouse snitch" again -- testimony bought and sold

A U.S. District Court judge in Pittsburgh has overturned the murder conviction and death penalty sentence for a Fayette County man accused of murdering a waitress more than two decades ago. Judge Nora Barry Fischer ordered a new trial Wednesday for Mark Breakiron, 47, in the murder of Saundra Marie Martin, 24. The judge called the evidence against him "unworthy of confidence" because then-Fayette County District Attorney Gerald Solomon withheld evidence from the defense. She ruled the evidence could have affected the jury's deliberations as to the degree of Breakiron's guilt.

On March 24, 1987, Martin was preparing to close Shenanigan's Lounge in German Township when a robber stabbed her 20 times and cut her throat. A state police investigation led authorities to Breakiron, who was the last person in the bar that night. Troopers questioned Breakiron and found Martin's blood on his clothes and truck, according to police. Breakiron was convicted the following year of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death. His sentence triggered a string of appeals.

In a 99-page opinion, Fischer ruled that Solomon, now a Fayette County judge, relied on tainted testimony from inmate Ellis Price, whose statements were used to help convict Breakiron of capital murder. Price testified that while the two were inmates in Fayette County Jail, Breakiron told him how he had killed Martin

The prosecution also withheld two letters from the defense that were written by Price and another inmate, James "Silky" Sullivan. Both men were seeking leniency at the time on other charges. Price testified that he did not receive any help from Solomon in exchange for his testimony.

"Here, a jailhouse informant sent letters to the district attorney, in which he offered information about a fellow inmate's alleged confession, while at the same time requesting relief from non-final convictions of attempted homicide, reckless endangerment, aggravated assault, and attempt to cause serious bodily injury that were pending against him," Fischer wrote.

During Breakiron's trial, Price also testified that he was convicted of assault in Michigan and was serving a prison sentence there when he was returned to Pennsylvania to testify against Breakiron. Breakiron argued that Price actually had been convicted of two crimes -- assault and armed robbery -- but Solomon failed to reveal the exact extent of Price's record. In his appeal, Breakiron argued that Solomon failed to correct Price's false testimony.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)


Angel Feathers Tickle Me said...

It was my sister that Mark Breakiron murdered, and the reason why Ellis Price came forward was that he knew my brother. Ellis Price was a thief not a murderer. There is a big difference. It takes a dark soul to torture a small little girl to death. Mark Breakiron is a monster. He deserves to die.

Anonymous said...

Why should Mark Breakiron sit in prison and live for free and we have to take care of him. When he murdered my cousin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

whwilson33 said...

Mark did this... I know he did this... and he needs to realize that he did this. I danced with your sister at the Highland House... and I drank beverages she dispensed. She was a good soul... as is Mark. However, "confession is good for the soul", and it is time to save the Soul of Mark Breakiron...

Anonymous said...

ellis price is my dad .and breakiron and his public defender need to realize my dad got no special treatment no shorter sentence for being a so called jail house snitch. second of all the idot dont want the death sentence well that lady didnt want to die she didnt have a choice why should he have a choice to life in prison or lethal injection . it does not matter what the justice sentence gives him. god gives the final sentence for every last one of us and we will be judged by our wrong doings when the lord returns for his elect chosen people