Zachary Witman's attorneys seek new trial
A world-renowned forensic expert testified Friday morning that closer examination of physical evidence might have helped the defense in the fratricide trial of Zachary Witman.
Dr. Henry C. Lee reviewed forensic reports and portions of trial testimony, but did not look at any physical evidence collected from the crime scene, he said.
Still, based on the reports, he said he would have advised defense counsel to have certain evidence -- including DNA and soil samples -- examined more closely.
"That's what an expert is for -- to explore any area of possibility," Lee said.
Lee has been involved in more than 6,000 crime investigations, including the Nicole Brown Simpson and JonBenet Ramsey murder cases, as well as war crimes in Bosnia and Croatia, according to Lee's Web site; he is the author of more than 20 books and more than 300 articles.
Now 23, Witman was 15 years old when he slashed and stabbed his 13-year-old brother, Gregory Witman, in the laundry room of their New Freedom home on Oct. 2, 1998.
Nearly decapitated: Gregory bled to death from 65 wounds to his neck, face, head and hands, a forensic pathologist testified during Witman's 2003 trial. Gregory was nearly decapitated, police said.
Witman was convicted of first-degree murder and is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole at the state prison in Smithfield, in Huntingdon County.
He and his team of attorneys were in York County Court Friday for Witman's Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) hearing, a standard appeal for serious convictions.
He is now represented by Nathan Dershowitz of New York (brother of well-known attorney Allen Dershowitz) and Norris Gelman of Philadelphia, who are arguing that Wit-
man's trial attorney made mistakes.
Gettysburg-area attorney David McGlaughlin, Witman's trial attorney, also took the stand Friday and defended his decision to agree to let jurors see Witman's bloody socks, despite the fact that a judge granted a defense motion to suppress that evidence.
Gelman noted that trial prosecutor Tim Barker used the bloody socks to his advantage at trial.
"Why did you allow Mr. Barker to make such incriminating use of the socks?" Gelman asked.
Who benefited? McGlaughlin countered that he felt the socks were more beneficial to the defense than to the prosecution, because he believes they proved a bloody footprint found by police was not Witman's.
"When I examined these socks, I saw with my own eyes that such a pattern could not have been created by those socks," he said, because the bloody footprint was nearly a full print and the bottom of the socks were not entirely soaked.
A judge ruled that the socks, along with Witman's bloody pants, could be suppressed because they were improperly confiscated by police.
However, trial jurors did get to see Witman's sweatshirt, which was spattered by Gregory's blood.
"He identified his brother as the killer, and he did so with the last beats of his heart," Barker told the jury.
Common Pleas Judge John C. Uhler is presiding over Witman's PCRA appeal hearing and will determine whether Witman deserves a new trial. Uhler was also the trial judge.
An appeal to the state Supreme Court was unsuccessful, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
Witman -- thin and balding -- sat quietly in court Friday, listening to testimony. His parents, Ron and Amelia "Sue" Witman, sat just feet behind him. Other friends and loved ones also attended the hearing.