Bitter Lawyer readers have probably been asking themselves what the heck is wrong with lawyers in Pennsylvania. But for now, never mind the lawyers. Let’s ask instead what’s wrong with the law in the Keystone State. As Exhibit A, I submit for you the upcoming criminal murder case against one Gregory R. Graf.
Graf stands accused of murdering his stepdaughter, Jessica Padgett, a mother of three young children who was shot in the back of the head shortly after leaving her job at a day care center on November 21, 2014. She was found five days buried on land owned by Graf and his wife. When the Pennsylvania State Police interrogated Graf, he apparently admitted that he had wanted to have sex with Padgett and killed her. He was charged with first-degree murder, but Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli is not seeking the death penalty despite the allegation that Graf did have sex with his stepdaughter.
Why, you may ask? Surely rape, a felony, is an aggravating factor when considering whether a murder qualifies for the death penalty. Indeed, under Pennsylvania law, a murder in perpetuation of a felony is an aggravating factor that allows a prosecutor to seek the death penalty. But abuse of a corpse, while a crime in the great Commonwealth, is merely a misdemeanor. You see, it turns out that the Pennsylvania State Police has in its possession a video taken from Graf’s computer that purports to show Graf raped Padgett after she was dead. Yes, the defendant allegedly video recorded himself having sex with the corpse – a misdemeanor. And that’s why Morganelli can’t seek the death penalty. Who knew Pennsylvania was so weird?
Post photo from Shutterstock.