The Kevin Murphy murder trial is tentatively scheduled to begin in December, but if it does, it will apparently be with a new judge. Westmoreland County Judge John Blahovec yesterday recused himself from the Murphy case or any other cases involving District Attorney John Peck or another attorney, Emily Smarto.
Blahovec’s secretary is involved in her nephew’s murder trial in West Virginia, and prosecutors in that case asked Peck to act on their behalf in seizing the secretary’s computer for their investigation. Peck did so, and so Blahovec removed himself from the D.A.’s cases. Smarto, who is not involved in the Murphy case, is representing Blahovec’s secretary, causing the judge to also recuse himself from her cases.
Judge Blahovec said he would not be involved in the Murphy trial because he wants to avoid the appearance of impropriety. His last action on the case, he says, is a ruling denying defense motions to have DNA, blood, and gunshot residue evidence prohibited from being used at trial by the prosecution. The judge has also denied the defense claim that statements made by Murphy after the murders were inadmissable because they were made while he was under the influence of drugs given him at the hospital after the shootings of his mother, sister, and aunt. The three women were murdered at the family’s glass business across the river from Saltsburg in Loyalhanna Township in 2009.
D.A. Peck says he does not object to Blahovec’s recusal. The case has not yet been assigned to another judge.