Ronald Heichel’s hearing Friday almost started with his attorney addressing the court.
Instead, it started with Heichel, his head shaved and his orange prison jumpsuit askew, protesting the whole proceedings.
“I don’t know what’s going on here,” he told the court.
Heichel is an inmate at Benner state prison, convicted of the 2009 murder of Samuel Boob at the instigation of the victim’s wife, Mirinda. Friday’s hearing, a Post-Conviction Relief Act process, is the latest appeal of that conviction.
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Heichel, whose grounds for the appeal include ineffectiveness of counsel on the part of trial attorney and public defender Casey McClain, was no happier with his second court-appointed counsel, Charles Kroboth, who he met for the first time at 9 a.m., when the hearing was scheduled to begin.
Centre County Judge Pamela A. Ruest dismissed Heichel’s request to replace Kroboth with a new attorney. Kroboth then called him to the stand.
“What am I going to testify to? I don’t trust you and I don’t like you?” Heichel asked.
Instead, he testified to a laundry list of aspects of the case he thought McClain had overlooked or not pressed during trial, including another man who allegedly was approached to commit the murder; his attempts to have Ruest recuse herself; a possibly tainted jury pool; and allegations that one of the state troopers investigating the scene tampered with evidence.
McClain testified that some points — such as the recusal and jury pool — had been addressed but overruled. Others were not pressed as part of the trial strategy.
“I told Ron that from the get-go it was going to be an uphill battle because of the text messages,” McClain said.
Among the most damning evidence against Heichel were text messages between him and Mirinda Boob leading up to the killing.
Heichel also said he didn’t testify at trial because his own lawyer threatened him with the death penalty. McClain replied that he was sure he mentioned the possibility of the death penalty, but that District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller had said she was not seeking it.
“If he wanted to testify, he would have testified,” McClain said.
The issue of trial testimony, however, brought objections from prosecutor Nathan Boob (no relation to the defendant or the victim), who said the argument was beyond the scope of the proceedings. Ruest agreed.
Kroboth will submit a memorandum on the hearing within 40 days. Boob will have another 30 days to respond.