The state Superior Court recently extended the deadline for openly gay defendant William F. Smithson to file an appellate brief in his murder case.
Smithson is accused of strangling co-worker Jason Shephard in 2006 after trying to rape him.
In 2008, a Delaware County jury convicted Smithson of first-degree murder.
But his advocates say the conviction was due largely to homophobia and that police failed to investigate F. Bruce Covington, who was also inside Smithson’s home when Shephard died.
Covington was convicted of drug-related charges stemming from the incident, but prosecutors say he wasn’t Shephard’s killer.
In a prior interview, Smithson said he was heavily drugged by Covington and passed out while Shephard was still alive.
Smithson is requesting a new trial, claiming his trial attorney failed to represent him effectively.
But in January, Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Barry C. Dozor denied Smithson’s request, holding that Smithson’s trial attorney adequately represented him.
Smithson is appealing Dozor’s ruilng in state Superior Court.
Smithson’s attorney, Henry D. Forrest, was supposed to file an appellate brief on May 12.
But Forrest requested more time, and the court extended the deadline to July 14.
Prosecutor William D. Toal 3d didn’t oppose the deadline extension, according to court records.
After Forrest files the brief, Toal will have 30 days file an appellee brief. Then, Forrest is permitted to file a reply brief.
Then the court has the option of hearing oral arguments or issuing a ruling based solely on the briefs.
Marriage-recognition case may be dismissed
U.S. District Judge Mary A. McLaughlin has ordered attorneys in a local marriage-recognition case to explain why the case shouldn’t be dismissed.
The case, Palladino v. Corbett, is pending in federal court in Philadelphia.
Cara Palladino and Isabelle Barker filed suit in 2013, seeking to have their 2005 marriage in Massachusetts recognized in Pennsylvania.
But on May 20, in another federal case known as Whitewood v. Wolf, the state’s same-sex marriage ban was overturned, and Gov. Tom Corbett said he won’t appeal.
On May 22, McLaughlin gave plaintiffs in the Palladino case a week to explain why their case shouldn’t be dismissed as moot in light of the Whitewood decision.
At presstime, Michael L. Banks, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told PGN that McLaughlin’s order was being evaluated. Additional information was unavailable.
Medical-records dispute in antibias case
City attorneys are seeking medical records of N. Melville Jones, a gay police officer who’s suing the city for pervasive anti-LGBT workplace bias.
Jones, however, has declined to comply with the request, citing confidentiality concerns.
A hearing on the dispute has been scheduled for 9 a.m. May 29 in City Hall Room 243. Common Pleas Judge Idee C. Fox is scheduled to preside.
According to court records, Jones at times felt depressed and experienced difficulty sleeping due to alleged workplace bias.
But city attorneys contend there may be other reasons for those issues, aside from alleged workplace bias.
At presstime, additional information on the dispute wasn’t available.
A non-jury trial is expected in October.
— Timothy Cwiek