BUFFALO, N.Y. — In New York State Supreme Court, a former prosecutor for the Erie County District Attorney's Office testified against his former employer — all in an attempt to exonerate two convicted murderers.
This case is in relation to the murder of Deborah Meindl, a City of Tonawanda woman in 1993.
Defense attorneys have argued many times that the two men who were convicted did not commit the murder and have raised questions of whether Richard Matt, who escaped Clinton Correctional Facility five years ago, is the real killer.
Twenty-eight years ago Meindl, a nursing student at Sister's Hospital, was strangled and stabbed to death in her City of Tonawanda home. Two men — James Pugh, who is now free, and Brian Scott Lorenz, who still behind bars, were tried and convicted of the murder.
The Erie County District Attorney's Office reinvestigated this case.
One of the lead investigators of that new review was David Heraty, who used to be a prosecutor for the DA's office. Heraty testified about the new investigation and how it pointed away from Pugh and Lorenz and more so toward the victim's husband showing interest in allegedly hiring a hitman. Heraty also testified that Pugh had an alibi and was dropping someone off at the Walden Galleria during and close to the time of the murder.
"Mr. Heraty recommended that these convictions be overturned and the DA transferred him, you can draw a pretty obvious conclusion," said Ilann Maazel, a defense attorney.
Heraty testified that his findings were rejected by District Attorney John Flynn himself. Heraty says he left the DA's office last month, after being reassigned.
Defense attorneys say they have a sworn affidavit from someone who says Richard Matt, who escaped Clinton Correctional several years ago, admitted to the murder. Matt was killed by police.
Who issued that sworn affidavit we still don't know.
This case is expected to resume Tuesday and extend into Wednesday. We hope to learn more then.
DA John Flynn has issued a statement saying:
"There is no credible evidence to link Richard Matt to the murder of Deborah Meindl. There is also no evidence that Deborah Meindl had a romantic relationship with Detective David Bentley. These two narratives asserted by defense counsel representing Brian Scott Lorenzo and James Pugh are false.
"Any assertion that the two prosecutors initially assigned to investigate this matter were removed from the case or reassigned because I did not agree with their findings is not true. I, along with my entire senior leadership team, several of my senior bureau chiefs and most experienced trial attorneys, disagreed with their conclusions due to a lack of any credible evidence. Both attorneys did not accept my decision with the professionalism expected of career prosecutors. Ultimately, I made the decision to remove both prosecutors from the case.
"While I cannot comment further on personnel matters, I can confirm that both prosecutors were later reassigned after I made the decision to remove them from the case. One prosecutor was relieved of his Bureau Chief position. He continues to work as an Assistant District Attorney in the Appeals Bureau. The other prosecutor was not demoted, but reassigned from the Appeals Bureau to the office’s Felony Trials Bureau.
"It is incumbent on defense counsel to submit new, credible evidence that establishes that these defendants did not commit this murder in order to vacate their conviction or re-open the criminal case. Without any new, credible evidence, I will continue to oppose this motion.
"I anticipate that all issues raised in this matter will be litigated in the course of the proceedings that will include submissions by both parties and in arguments before the Court. Our office cannot comment further on this matter as the 440 motion is pending."