Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Weimer Case Rejected by State’s Top Court

Conviction Stands Despite Questionable Witnesses and Controversial Forensic Debate

By Marie Do Rego

Innocence Institute of Point Park University

PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has denied the appeal of a Fayette County woman sentenced to as much as 30 years in prison in the death of man who was beaten, bitten and shot after a night of revelry in 2001.

In a six-page opinion, the court ruled Crystal Weimer’s arguments regarding insufficient evidence and a misapplied conspiracy charge were meritless.

That means Weimer, who has steadfastly maintained her innocence and says she wasn’t even in the same Fayette town when someone beat and shot Curtis Haith, will continue to serve a 14 ½ to 30 year sentence for third degree murder.

Weimer was convicted after a three-day trial beset by eyewitness testimony from a stream of jailhouse informers who repeatedly changed their stories and questionable forensic evidence from experts who disputed whether pictures of bite marks on the dead man’s arms matched a dental mold of Weimer’s teeth.

“It’s devastating. I just can’t believe that our [justice] system won’t stand up for truth,” said Weimer, in a telephone interview with the Innocence Institute after she discovered the outcome of her appeal by reading it in a newspaper.

In an earlier 2007 appeal that was denied by the appeals court, she challenged the supposed eyewitness testimony that changed every time the witnesses testified as well as legal standards that did not apply to her case.

In the latest appeal, the Supreme Court considered if it is possible, as a matter of law, for a person to be convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the third degree. In a six page opinion, the Court said it is possible.

The Court reasoned that if the victim’s death is a “natural and probable consequence of a co-conspirator’s conduct” a conspiracy charge is appropriate. The Sept. 9, 2009 opinion also stated that a conspiracy can occur regardless of the grade of murder a defendant is convicted of.

A representative from the Fayette County DA’s office could not be reached for comment.

In the wake of the Court’s decision, Weimer has recently filed another appeal.

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