Convicted murderer asks for new trial

Attorney: Defense ‘poisoned’ jurors’ minds

CLEARFIELD — A convicted murderer sentenced to life in prison without parole is asking for a new trial.

About 8:30 p.m. Oct. 30, 2017, Dustin T. Thomas, 28, of Hawk Run, shot Brett Bamat of Philipsburg after a shoving match outside a Morris Township, Clearfield County, residence.

In August, Thomas was convicted of first-degree murder in Clearfield County Court.

His attorney, Stephanie Cooper, filed a post-sentence motion citing several reasons the case should be returned to court for a new trial prior to withdrawing from the case.

The motion was discussed on Thursday during a hearing before Judge Paul E. Cherry.

The first issue is alleged prosecutorial misconduct by District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr., who the defense said “poisoned the mind of the jurors when he was examining witnesses.”

His use of the phrase “there you go” when the witness gave the answer he was looking for, gave the impression that the witnesses had been coached, said Thomas’ current attorney, Steven Johnston of the public defender’s office.

Johnston also stated that Shaw’s cross-examination of the defense’s expert witness, Dr. Lawrence J. Guzzardi, was adversarial and “verged on insulting.”

Guzzardi was out of the country and was unavailable to testify in person during the trial.

After a request to continue the trial by the defense was denied, it was decided that Guzzardi would testify via telephone.

This led to confusion by Guzzardi, who was not aware of who was talking to him during his testimony, the defense alleges.

In the hearing Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Jendi Schwab, noted that part of the problem was that Guzzardi continually refused to answer the questions asked by the prosecution.

The denial of the continuance for the trial is another issue listed in the motion.

Cherry, who presided over the original trial, stated that the motion for a continuance was made just a week before the trial and that it was the “attorney who dropped the ball” on this when she did not subpoena Guzzardi.

Cherry went on to explain that every effort was made to accommodate the expert testimony including an attempt to set up a Skype session with him.

His testimony by phone should not have affected the jury’s decision because as Schwab pointed out, the jury was given instructions to give Guzzardi’s testimony the same weight as the other witness’ testimony.

The last issue is that jury was not given the option of voluntary manslaughter for their verdict.

Cherry gave Johnston until Jan. 24 to provide briefs on all these issues after which Schwab has until Feb. 7 to respond. Cherry expects to make a decision by Feb. 23.