HOLLIDAYSBURG - Requests for a new trial or modified sentence on behalf of Nicholas Horner, the Altoona man facing two consecutive life terms for murder, have been denied.
Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva, in an order filed Wednesday, said she found nothing that "shocks-the-conscience to warrant an abrogation of the verdict."
Horner, 32, was convicted in March of killing Scott Garlick, 19, on April 6, 2009, while robbing the 58th Street Subway, and of killing Raymond Williams, 64, after fleeing the restaurant.
Altoona attorney Thomas M. Dickey, who filed the appeal on Horner's behalf, said he wasn't surprised with Kopriva's ruling and will take his arguments to the state Superior Court.
"Being able to introduce the insanity defense, that's what the whole appeal is about," Dickey said. "Did the judge make a mistake in her ruling? We believe she was wrong."
Kopriva, who rejected the use of an insanity defense in January, rejected it again in her latest order. She referenced law reviewed in January, relevant to intoxication and drugged conditions, as precluding any insanity defense.
During the trial, Dickey defended Horner on the basis that he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems resulting from his military service in Iraq.
Dickey tried to convince the jury that Horner lacked the specific intent to kill and claimed prosecutors failed to offer enough evidence of that.
Kopriva rejected those claims and referred to testimony from Michelle Petty, a Subway employee who was wounded in the robbery. Petty testified that Horner told Scott Garlick: "I'm sorry. I didn't want to have to do that to you."
Kopriva also rejected the appeal based on testimony of Dr. Harry Kamerow, who said Horner shot both Garlick and Williams in vital areas of their bodies.
Kopriva pointed out that Dickey was allowed to use a diminished capacity defense on Horner's behalf. On that basis, she instructed the jury that Horner "could not be guilty of first-degree murder if, as a result of a mental disorder or abnormality, the defendant was incapable of forming the specific intent to kill."
Dickey said Kopriva's instructions also include a deadly weapons inference, which implied that a diminished capacity defense could be ignored. She disagreed.
"A review of the jury instruction transcripts indicates that at no time did the court explicitly say or imply that a deadly weapon inference pre-empted the consideration of diminished capacity," the judge said.
Dickey also accused Kopriva of abusing her discretion by imposing consecutive sentences, but Kopriva defended her decision.
"In this case, consecutive sentences on all counts were not unreasonable," she said. "To do less would diminish the gravity of each life the defendant took."
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.