A Pennsylvania man who spent 27 years in prison for a double murder he did not commit was freed in October 2011 and now wants more than $10 million to pay him back for nearly half his life because, he says, prosecutors deliberately his evidence that cleared him.
David Munchinski was convicted in 1987 of the “Bear Rocks Murders,” the slayings of two men that took place in Fayette County, Penn., a decade earlier. The crimes were unsolved until the arrest of Leon Scaglione and his alleged accomplice, Munchinski.
Munchinki’s first trial, in 1986 ended up with a hung jury. He was convicted in a retrial the following year, based on the statements of Richard Bowen, a convicted forger who claimed to be the getaway driver for the double murder. Munchinski was hit with two life terms.
Scaglione, who died in prison, later confessed to the killings and under oath, said that Munchinski (pictured) had nothing to do with them. Bowen has since committed suicide.
Now the wrongly convicted man says that prosecutors had evidence that cleared him all along, but somehow lost or suppressed it. He is said to be asking for an eight-figure sum in a lawsuit against them and the judge who oversaw his case.
According to Munchinski’s new allegations, before fingering him, Bowen gave an interview to police in which he said he had no knowldege of the murders. But tapes of that statement somehow vanished.
Investigators later learned that Bowen was in Oklahoma at the time of the Pennsylvania killings and that the car that he said he drove the night of the crimes was one he did not own at the time.
Munchinski alleges that prosecutors knowingly suppressed that evidence, which would have discredited Bowen’s statements.
Munchinski was let out of prison on bond in October, 2011 when both a state court judge and a U.S. magistrate determined that the evidence that led to his conviction was tainted. Charges against him were finally dismissed in June of this year.
Even so, Munchinski may have a hard time winning his lawsuit if it goes to trial.
"It's going to be hard to show purposeful misconduct on the part of the government," said Duquesne University law professor John Rago.
SOURCES: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh TribLive (2), UPI