On Thursday afternoon Edward R. Kralik, 68, of St. Marys, went before Elk County President Judge Richard Masson as part of a Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) hearing. Kralik pleaded guilty in May to third-degree murder in the June 2010 homicide of Clayton Lecker of St. Marys and is currently incarcerated at State Correction Institution (SCI) Smithfield in Huntingdon.
Leanne Nedza, Kralik's attorney, stated the purpose of the hearing is that Kralik "was not afforded effective assistance of council when he made his plea."
Masson continued the hearing to a later date "to afford the defense the opportunity to provide additional evidence in medical testimony for his (Kralik's) condition."
A PCRA allows a defendant to appeal a case when a direct appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania has been denied. The PCRA must be filed within one year of final disposition of case that ended all the defendant's appellate rights. The exception to this rule is when the defendant is in custody. When a defendant is in custody, there are various ways to file a PCRA after one year has passed. Newly found evidence is an exception to the one-year rule.
In July, Nedza filed a PCRA petition with amendments made to the document in October. The Commonwealth filed an answer to the petition in October.
At the beginning of the hearing, Nedza said she met with Kralik prior to filing the amended petition, during which she explained to him there are only two remedies for a PCRA: withdrawing a plea and going back to square one and entering a new plea or taking his case to trial.
"I'm not entirely sure he's aware of the consequences that a plea agreement could be worse than the 8- to 20-year sentence he has," Nedza said.
Nedza then called Elk County Public Defender Jim Martin to testify. Martin has been an attorney for 28 years and has been the county's public defender for 24.5 years. He was appointed to represent Kralik in June 2010.
Martin stated that during an omnibus pretrial motion, which he filed in October 2010, the defense requested the court's approval to retain a forensic expert. He said they believed this was necessary to determine the extent of Kralik's and Lecker's injuries, in hopes this evidence would provide information on how the incident could have occurred. Martin added this was in hopes of looking further into Kralik's self-defense claim.
Masson granted the motion; however, Martin never obtained the expert because he explained that he did not feel it was necessary upon further review.
The new hearing date has not yet been announced.
Pick up a copy of the Friday, Dec. 9, 2011 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.