The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

August 20, 2012

Judge won’t hear murderer’s appeal

Saylor steps aside, citing Sacavage’s comments

SUNBURY — Northumberland County Judge Charles H. Saylor has recused himself from hearing a convicted killer’s appeal, citing a news article quoting President Judge Robert B. Sacavage on the topic.

Saylor has disqualified himself from presiding over an appeal from convicted killer Norman Gundrum Jr., 35, following a U.S. Supreme Court decision that mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders are unconstitutional.

Gundrum was 15 in December 1993 when he fatally stabbed Bobby Coup, 18, in Milton. He was later convicted of first-degree murder and received a life sentence after a Northumberland County jury rejected the death penalty.

Sacavage, who was district attorney at the time of Gundrum’s conviction in January 1995 but did not prosecute the case, spoke publicly about the federal ruling and in general about the cases it impacts.

In a written court order recusing himself from hearing the appeal, Saylor cited a sub-headline on an Aug. 15 Daily Item article containing Sacavage’s remarks that read, “No need to reconsider sentences for teen killers” — words Sacavage never said — and referred to a partial quote from Sacavage which read “There has never been much public sympathy for juvenile killers.”

Wrote Saylor, “These comments are indicative of a viewpoint by the president judge that claims a defendant” who appeals a life sentence based on the federal court’s ruling “should not be reconsidered, and it would be unpopular to do so.”

For more details, see Tuesday’s edition of The Daily Item.

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