The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has overturned a ruling by a local judge, and will allow a famed pathologist to testify in a Beaver County homicide trial.
The appeals court ruled that Common Pleas Judge Harry Knafelc erred when he granted a defense motion to preclude Dr. Cyrl Wecht from testifying as an expert witness for the prosecution in their case against Gregory Scott Hopkins.
Gregory Hopkins, age 65 of 718 Mulberry Street Bridgewater, was charged in January of 2012 with Criminal Homicide in connection with the 1979 death of Catherine Walsh. Hopkins, who was interviewed shortly after the murder, claimed at the time he and Walsh had been in a consensual sexual relationship, but said it had ended over a month before her death. The investigation of the case stalled until advances in DNA analysis led to his arrest some 33 years later.
Judge Knafelc issued an order last November precluding Dr. Wecht from testifying about his findings based on a review of evidence in the case against Hopkins. The Beaver County District Attorney’s Office appealed that decision, which led to Friday’s ruling from the Superior Court.
“Upon review, we conclude that Dr. Wecht’s report regarding the location of seminal fluid, its time of deposit, and the lack of DNA evidence of a third party meets Pennsylvania’s liberal standard for expert testimony,” wrote Senior Judge John L. Musmanno for the court. “Further, Dr. Wecht’s expert opinion is stated with the requisite degree of certainty. Accordingly, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in precluding Dr. Wecht’s expert report and testimony as to the location of seminal fluid and its time of deposit. We therefore reverse the trial court’s Order as to the preclusion of this evidence.”
The Superior Court upheld a part of Judge Knefelc’s decision to preclude testimony from Dr. Wecht as to his opinion that Catherine Walsh knew her assailant. “We cannot conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in precluding expert testimony from Dr. Wecht as to whether the victim knew her assailant,” wrote Senior Judge Musmanno.
A trial date has not yet been set, but courthouse sources tell the Beaver Countian that the case is likely to proceed before the end of this year.