WILKES-BARRE – The scheduled June homicide trial for suspect Hugo Selenski has again been put on hold in Luzerne County Court.
In court papers filed Friday, Selenski’s attorney, John Pike, filed a request to continue the trial from its June 27 date because an expert that defense attorneys intend to call in the possible sentencing phase of Selenski’s trial is unavailable throughout 2011.
Selenski, 37, faces the death penalty in the case if convicted of first-degree murder. Prosecutors say he is responsible for the deaths of Michael Kerkowski and Tammy Fassett. Their bodies were unearthed from Selenski’s Kingston Township home in June 2003.
“…(Selenski) would be substantially prejudiced without the presentation of mitigation evidence at the penalty phase of his trial in the event he is found guilty of murder in the first degree,” Pike wrote.
The mitigation expert is unavailable throughout 2011, Pike said, because of other state and federal death penalty trial commitments.
The order granting the continuance was signed by President Judge Thomas Burke on behalf of the judge presiding over the case, Senior Judge Chester Muroski.
Burke said that Selenski’s trial is continued “generally” and that a new trial date will be scheduled within 90 days when a pre-trial hearing is held.
Selenski’s trial on the charges has previously been delayed for years while attorneys appealed rulings made by Muroski and awaited decisions.
The most recent was in March when the state Supreme Court declined to hear Selenski’s appeal of a ruling regarding the admissibility of testimony of Michael Kerkowski Sr.
Muroski previously ruled that a transcript of testimony given by the elder Kerkowski could be admitted into evidence at the trial.
The elder Kerkowski had testified at Selenski’s preliminary hearing and was scheduled to testify at the trial, but he died in September 2006.
The judge also ruled that prosecutors are prohibited from using a recorded telephone conversation Selenski allegedly had with Michael Kerkowski Sr.