Attorneys for suspended Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin and her sister Janine Orie made their closing arguments to a jury of 3 males and 9 females Friday in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
The two co-defendants are accused of misusing government resources and staffers for Melvin’s state Supreme Court campaigns in 2003 and 2009. There are also counts of conspiracy, tampering with evidence and official oppression.
Both defense teams said Melvin's judicial staff completed their necessary work in a timely fashion, a feat the defense said would be impossible if the District Attorney's diversion and theft of services accusations were true.
Melvin's attorney Patrick Casey asked the jury to look for the "North Star" of hard work and respect for the law. Casey told the jury they could see the hard work from Melvin's judicial law clerks' testimony, and the respect for the law when Melvin reimbursed the court for phone and hotel expenses related to the campaigns "when no one was looking."
Janine Orie's lawyer, James DePasquale, said his client got stuck in the cross-fire. He asked the jury, "Is she anything more than collateral damage...who gets put into this because of her family, because of her name?" DePasquale said his client was merely a secretary, and she should not be on trial.
Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus disagreed, and said Janine Orie did managerial work, not just secretarial. He pointed to one of Melvin's written speech outlines that said, "Janine, my best friend and political brains in the family." Claus argued that line makes Janine Orie more than secretary, who knew the rules. Claus admitted a family working together is "admirable," but said in this case, it went too far and turned criminal
After Judge Lester G. Nahaus instructs the jury instructions, deliberations began immediately. The jury deliberated about two hours Friday without reaching a verdict. Jurors are set to return Tuesday after the Presidents Day holiday.