Attorneys’ actions leading up to and at trial in 1998 underwent hours of questioning Thursday as a death row inmate seeks modifications to his conviction and sentence.
Albert E. Reid, 64, formerly of Biglerville, Pa., was found guilty in the Dec. 27, 1996, killing of his estranged wife, Carla Reid, and her 14-year-old daughter Deidra Moore in a Sollenberger Road home outside Chambersburg.
He has filed claims of inadequate performance from his attorneys, improper jury instructions and prosecutorial misconduct under the Post Conviction Relief Act.
On Thursday morning, Reid’s current attorney, Keisha Hudson, questioned one of his trial attorneys, Stephen Kulla of Waynesboro, Pa., about his choices and decisions. Kulla was the first witness in what was anticipated to be a two-day evidentiary hearing.
Six attorneys who have worked on Reid’s case were scheduled to testify Thursday and today. A specially assigned senior judge, David Grine, has scheduled July 29 to Aug. 2 as the days to hear from 30 other individuals, many of whom live in England and Reid’s native Jamaica.
Kulla, who had been appointed by the court, described a contentious relationship with his former client, saying Reid often shouted at his lawyers and told them to not prepare for the possibility of sentencing.
“We’re fighting, fighting, fighting against this client all the time and trying to get him to cooperate,” Kulla said of the months preceding trial.
Hudson asked Kulla why he did not highlight some inconsistencies in witnesses’ testimony in trial, referencing a man who first said he met Reid twice and later said it was three times over two months. She said that man was not cross-examined.
It could have been advantageous to ask about those statements, but it also is important to not overburden the jury and make its members believe you are trying out multiple defenses to see what works, Kulla said.
Reid attempted to represent himself in aspects of his trial. Through some of those efforts, testimony was submitted by a Haitian culture, religion and voodoo expert regarding a note found in Reid’s motel room.
The court-appointed defense team turned around and hired a Jamaican culture expert who testified the note, which had a list of names, was positive in nature. Kulla said that person indicated it was “not a hit list or death list, that he wanted them to think good things about him.”
Hudson asked why Kulla did not retain a Haitian expert. He answered that Reid’s background is Jamaican and he wouldn’t want to retain a Haitian expert who would portray the note as negative, saying that would hurt the defense.
Hudson questioned the work of mitigation specialists who prepared evidence for use during the penalty phase of the trial. Mitigation evidence is generally utilized by a defense team to seek lighter sentences.
Hudson asked why immigration records were not obtained and why the mitigation specialists did not delve into the details of Reid’s background based on what he shared during an earlier competency hearing.
Reid withheld information and told the attorneys not to investigate his background or talk to his family, Kulla said.
“It was definitely not a suggestion. It was a direction,” Kulla said.
There were no witnesses to the crimes, even though the victims were shot while sleeping in beds with Carla Reid’s other children. Pennsylvania State Police never found the murder weapon, according to published reports.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed Reid’s conviction and sentence on Sept. 27, 2002. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the case in 2003.
Reid is incarcerated in a maximum-security state prison in Greene County, Pa