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1979 homicide case delayed in Franklin Co. court

January 02, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

A Franklin County criminal homicide case dating back to 1979 begins a new year with issues still to be resolved by the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

The case of Michael Wayne McCormick Jr., 55, of 526 Vinell Lane, recently was ordered continued from the January to March trial term. By then, it will have been more than six years since McCormick was charged in the March 29, 1979, shooting death of Alan Bennett Cosey, 23, of Waynesboro, Pa.

McCormick was charged by Pennsylvania State Police with Cosey's death shortly after police alleged he made an incriminating statement on Feb. 6, 1998. The admissibility of that statement is what has yet to be decided by the Superior Court, according to defense attorney Eric Weisbrod.

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In that statement, McCormick allegedly acknowledged pulling the trigger, according to court records.

McCormick has been free on bond since shortly after he was charged in 1998.

Cosey's death initially was ruled a suicide after being investigated by Waynesboro and state police more than 24 years ago. He was found in his apartment dead of a gunshot wound to the chest from a black powder revolver. State police re-opened the investigation in 1997 after Cosey's widow confided her suspicions to her psychiatrist.

Franklin County Judge Richard J. Walsh dismissed the charge in 2000, citing the long delay between Cosey's death and McCormick's arrest. The Superior Court reversed that decision in 2001 and the charge was reinstated, Weisbrod said.

In June 2003, Walsh ruled that the statement McCormick gave police after a polygraph examination was inadmissible because the Miranda waiver McCormick consented to at the beginning of the polygraph examination should not have applied to the subsequent interrogation by three troopers.

The judge also wrote that McCormick was under "custodial interrogation" because "a reasonable person ... would likely believe that his personal freedom was impaired in a significant way" during questioning.

In his brief to the Superior Court, Franklin County District Attorney John F. Nelson wrote that McCormick was not in custody at the time of the Feb. 6 interrogation, could have left at any time and was allowed coffee and cigarette breaks outside the police barrack.

While the polygraph results were inconclusive, Nelson wrote that police did not lie when they told McCormick he had not passed the test, likening it to a tie in a hockey or soccer game.

Weisbrod said the statement McCormick was alleged to have made was not recorded by the police, nor did McCormick sign a written statement.

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