HOLLIDAYSBURG - Defense attorney Thomas M. Dickey asked Friday that Nicholas A. Horner, who was recently sentenced to two consecutive life terms for murder, be granted a new trial.
Dickey began what is expected to be a long appeals process in the Horner case. He contends that Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva erred when she refused to permit an insanity defense in Horner's March trial and that she gave improper instructions to the jury.
The judge instructed the jury that it could presume Horner meant to kill his victims in 2009 if it found that he pointed a deadly weapon at a vital part of a victim's body.
Horner was convicted of killing Scott Garlick, 19, on April 6, 2009, when he robbed 58th Street Subway. Garlick, a high school senior, was working at the sandwich shop. Horner was convicted of shooting another employee, Michele Petty.
After fleeing the restaurant, Horner killed Raymond Williams, 64, outside his apartment building.
The defense argued throughout the three-week trial that Horner suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his Army service in Iraq. The medications Horner took for PTSD and other mental health problems caused the drug-induced delirium, Dickey contended.
The prosecution team, Deputy District Attorneys Wade Kagarise and Jackie Bernard, argued that PTSD was not a factor in Horner's decision to rob the Subway, which he did for money.
Dickey wanted to present an insanity defense for Horner based on a report written by Minnesota psychologist Ernest Boswell.
Boswell concluded that Horner, an Army veteran, was suffering from drug-induced delirium which he said was a "neuropsychiatric condition that affects an individual's ability to be oriented and think rationally."
The judge barred the insanity defense because she concluded that Pennsylvania law "negates legal insanity" if alcohol played a part in the shooting. Boswell concluded he could not rule out that alcohol played a part.
The judge's finding was so controversial that the trial was delayed two months after Dickey asked the state Supreme Court to intervene. The court did not step in and overrule the judge and the trial went forward.
Dickey also contests the judge's decision to instruct the jury that it could conclude Horner intended to kill his victims if it found he pointed a deadly weapon, a gun, at a vital part of the victims' bodies. He claims there was not enough evidence to convict Horner of robbery and murder.
Kopriva will make a decision on Dickey's arguments after which he can appeal to the state Superior Court.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.