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Judge grants request for additional attorney



Published: Thu, October 19, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



A magistrate was appointed to monitor the costs.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA BUREAU

AKRON -- A federal judge has agreed to give Donna Moonda the defense team she requested.

U.S. District Judge David Dowd appointed attorneys David Grant of Cleveland and Larry Whitney of Akron to help her current attorney Roger Synenberg. All three will be paid from public funds.

The judge, however, appointed Magistrate Judge Nancy Vecchiarelli of Cleveland to monitor expenses. Judge Dowd cautioned that the three should not duplicate services. He said the court will limit the number of hours for joint planning meetings by the attorneys.

The judge wants a budget submitted to Vecchiarelli in two weeks.

All defendants in capital cases are assured at least two attorneys, according to the court, and possibly more if there are exceptional circumstances.

Prosecutors had opposed the appointment of a third attorney contending there were no exceptional circumstances.

But Judge Dowd disagreed, noting that in most homicide cases it does not take 14 months after the homicide to file the charges.

About the case

Moonda was arrested in July for the May 13, 2005, shooting death of her husband. Dr. Gulam Moonda, 69, was shot on the Ohio Turnpike during a family trip with his wife and mother-in-law.

The family contended a stranger pulled behind them and demanded money before shooting the doctor.

Police say Damian Bradford, 25, of Beaver County, Pa., shot the doctor at Moonda's request. He told prosecutors the two became lovers after meeting in a drug rehabilitation program, and she had promised him half of her expected 3 million to 6 million inheritance.

Judge Dowd, in his decision to grant Moonda a third attorney, noted that the widespread publicity about the case might raise the question of a change of venue and noted that it's a rare event to have a capital case where the defendant is a woman and is not the actual killer.

He noted there also is the potential that Moonda was drug dependent during the time her husband was killed and that may be relevant in a sentencing hearing if she is convicted.

The judge also granted Moonda's request for an investigator and a mitigation specialist. He said he will consider recommendations for those appointments in the next few weeks.

cioffi@vindy.com




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