Wallick resentencing pushed back a month

John Joyce, 505-5432/@JohnJoyceYD
  • It will be another month before Jordan Wallick, convicted as a teen in a 2010 York City murder, learns his new fate.
  • A 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling vacated life sentences for teens convicted of murder.
  • Wallick can still receive a maximum sentence of life but with a minimum number of years attached, officials said.

The family of slain law student James Wallmuth III will wait another 30 days for a second shot at justice regarding the resentencing of their loved one's murderer. 

The second day of testimony in the resentencing hearing of Jordan Wallick, 21, convicted in 2012 of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Wallmuth, concluded Tuesday with a tearful apology to the victim's family.

Because he was a teenager at the time he was sentenced to life in prison without parole, Wallick is eligible for resentencing because of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision — Miller v. Alabama — which came down not long after he was sentenced. That decision vacated automatic life sentences for teens convicted of murder, declaring such prison terms unconstitutional. 

Jordan Wallick

The state rested its case after calling its final witness, Laura Unger, a friend and fellow Pitt Law School student with whom Wallmuth would have graduated had he not been shot by Wallick during a failed robbery in 2010. 

Apology: Following Unger's brief testimony and a video of Pitt Law students who knew Wallmuth honoring him at their graduation in 2012, Wallick struggled through a written apology to the Wallmuth family.

"First and foremost, I want to say that I'm sorry. There isn't anything I can do or say to bring your loved one back," Wallick said, choking back tears. "I could apologize a million times and that wouldn't change any of it."

He went on to say that he wakes up each day hating himself for what he's done, and if it were possible, he would exchange his life for Wallmuth's.

Wallmuth, called "Jimmy" by his family and friends, was 28 at the time of the murder. Wallick was just 15.

Convicted at 17, murderer Jordan Wallick eyes new sentence

Prosecutor David Maisch is asking the court to impose a sentence of either 40 or 50 years to life, whereas defense attorney Dawn Cutaia argued that the tail end of Wallick's sentence should not be life, but a number. 

During testimony Monday, psychiatrists Dr. Larry Rotenburg and Dr. Frank Dattilio, expert witnesses for the state and defense respectively, delivered similar diagnoses regarding Wallick's mental health. Both said he has progressed in his development and maturity in the last 22 months, but only after his first four years in prison mirrored his time on the streets before his conviction, including fighting and getting written up by prison officials eight or nine times for infractions. 

Both doctors, while varying slightly in their clinical assessments of Wallick, agreed he could be rehabilitated in time if his behavior and decision-making continue to improve. Neither could predict, however, an exact time frame for that to happen. 

During an impassioned summation, Cutaia asked the court to consider that Wallick has become a peer counselor and, thanks to his sustained good behavior, earned his way into the TAILS (Train, Assist, Inspire Loyal Service) program at the State Correctional Institute Pine Grove, where inmates work with and train dogs to become support animals for children and adults with disabilities.

Those factors and a job cleaning the prison chapel show progress in his maturation, she argued. 

"Something in him clicked, and that is when he decided, 'I'm not going to do this anymore,'" Cutaia told the court. 

Cutaia asked for and was granted two weeks to review case law and file a brief in defense of her argument. She told the court Tuesday her client takes full responsibility for his actions, but a jury in 2012 found Wallick guilty of second-degree murder rather than first-degree murder, in effect agreeing that her client's shooting of Wallmuth was unintentional.

"It was not intentional, it was a mistake," she said. 

Toward the end of her summation, Cutaia insinuated that Wallick deserved a chance at life after prison, to which members of the Wallmuth family in the audience shook their heads. 

Killing: On July 28, 2010, Wallmuth was sitting on a park bench near the corner of Grant Street and West Clarke Avenue in York talking to his girlfriend on his cellphone, York City Police said.

Wallick, having recently been initiated into a gang, was given a gun by some adults and told to rob Wallmuth for his cellphone, according to testimony.

He did, but claimed Wallmuth grabbed the gun and there was an accidental discharge, striking Wallmuth in the back. Rotenberg and Dattillio said Wallick expressed remorse for the victim and for the victim's family and his own, but Rotenberg said he downplays his role in the murder, minimizing and rationalizing his actions.

Justices extend bar on automatic life terms for teenagers

Sentence: York County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner, who presided over Wallick's trial and delivered his original sentence, said the state also could file a brief supporting its proposed sentence and he would review it and Cutaia's brief before resentencing Wallick. 

The new sentence is scheduled to be handed down at 10 a.m. Sept. 23. 

York County: In addition to Wallick,10 other men are serving life in prison for committing murders in York County as juveniles. They are:

  • Scott Davis, who fatally shot neighbor Roderick Kotchin, 41, in Springettsbury Township in 1980 as he entered the man's home.
  • Scott Griffin, who fatally shot girlfriend Linda D. Hagens, 17, in the chest with a deer rifle during an argument in his York City home in 1974.
  • Warner Batty and co-defendant Donald Rivera, who dragged 26-year-old Betty Ilgenfritz Bradford into a deserted York City building, stripped her and beat her to death, then set her body on fire in 1975.
  • Larry Markle, who fatally shot 72-year-old Arthur Klinedinst while robbing Eddie's Food Market at 566 W. Philadelphia St. in 1975. Klinedinst was a customer.
  • Wilfredo Caballero, one of several teenagers who used a tree branch to fatally beat 49-year-old Jose Cosme after luring him to a secluded area in Springettsbury Township in 1988, in part to steal his drugs.
  • Dwayne Morningwake and Michael Lehman, two of four Children's Home of York runaways who broke into a home in 1988, fatally stabbed counselor Kwame Beatty and stole his cash and car.
  • Kwilson Coleman, who fatally shot 20-year-old Greg Wright in York City in 2008 as the injured Wright ran, and eventually crawled, away from Coleman.
  • Daron Nesbit, who fatally shot 21-year-old Paul Smith in York City in 1997 during an argument outside a restaurant.
  • Zachary Witman, who fatally stabbed his 13-year-old brother, Greg Witman, in their New Freedom home in 1998.

— Reach John Joyce at jjoyce2@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter @JohnJoyceYD.