Harlow Cuadra Murder Trial Enters Week 3

JC Adams
WILKES-BARRES, Pa. — The capital murder trial of Harlow Cuadra was scheduled to open its third week today. Dozens of prosecution witnesses have already delivered their testimony. Additionally, defense attorneys have raised the possibility that Joseph Kerekes, Cuadra's partner and onetime co-defendant, could be called to the stand.

Kerekes abruptly pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in early December 2008. He was sentenced to the mandatory life in prison without parole. The plea spared Kerekes, 34, from facing the death penalty.

When he pleaded guilty, Kerekes said that "Harlow Cuadra was primarily responsible for the crime," reports the Citizen's Voice newspaper. "Cuadra's attorneys now hope Kerekes will reverse those statements when he testifies on Cuadra's behalf."

His testimony "could dramatically change the trial where prosecution's evidence far outweighs Cuadra's likely defense," the newspaper writes. "In the first seven days of testimony, more than 50 witnesses testified for the prosecution."

In addition to the murder charges, Cuadra is also accused of arson. Details about the fire that ravaged Kocis' home on Jan. 24, 2007 were presented to the jury on Friday.

According to a newspaper account, "Bryan Kocis' mother averted her eyes Friday as prosecutors showed photos of the charred, black living room where Kocis' body was found after a raging fire was extinguished. For 20 years her son called the 60 Midland Dr. property in Dallas Township his home, but the fire, so large neighbors had to evacuate, destroyed the house where 44-year-old Kocis lived most of his adult life."

Unspooling daily to a packed courtroom, the trial has scandalized the local media, as well as the gay/gossip blogosphere.

"Gasps were heard from those in the packed… courtroom when a nude picture of Harlow Cuadra in a provocative position was shown to a jury on Friday. A few heads turned from the screen, including Cuadra and his mother, Gladys," reports the Times Leader newspaper.

Cuadra, 27, an escort, gay adult producer and website entrepreneur, stands accused of murdering Cobra Video producer Bryan Kocis in January 2007 and setting fire to his Dallas Township, Penn. home. He and Kerekes were arrested in May 2007 and formally charged two months later.

In his opening statement to the jury, defense attorney Joseph D'Andrea contended that none of the prosecution's evidence "puts the knife in Cuadra's hand or proves that he killed Kocis."