DA responds to motion in murder case

The Centre County District Attorney’s Office filed a response last week to a series of motions made by George Ishler in November.

Ishler, 40, is charged with the murder of Penn State professor Ronald Bettig. Bettig was reported missing in August 2016. His body was found a few days later at the bottom of a quarry in Potter Township.

Ishler and Danelle Geier, 33, were charged in his death, accused of conspiring and planning to kill Bettig.

Ishler filed several motions in November, including a motion to sever his trial from Geier’s trial. According to the motion, he contends he would be severely prejudiced by having the cases tried together, saying that in the event Geier does not testify, her statement to the police would be admitted as evidence against him.

Another motion sought the appointment of experts and an investigator to assist in his defense, requesting the services of an investigator, a forensic psychologist, a forensic pathologist, an expert in the areas of DNA and fingerprints, a technician and an attorney licensed to practice law in Delaware. Without these, the motion contends, Ishler will be denied his right to a fair trial, effective counsel and due process, violating the Fifth, Sixth and 14th Amendments.

According to the response filed Thursday by the District Attorney’s Office, offenses charged in separate indictments may be tried together if the evidence of each offense would be admissible in a separate trial for the other or if the offenses are based on the same act.

“Criminal defendants may be joined if they are alleged to have participated in the same act or transaction,” the response said.

The motion also contends that if defendants have conflicting versions of what took place, it’s reason for a joint trial rather than against “because they truth may be easily determined if all are tried together.”

The response also spoke against Ishler’s request for the appointments of experts, saying there is no constitutional mandate — federal or state — that experts be appointed to prepare a defense at public expense.

“(The) defendant does not allege any factual circumstances or issues that might require appointment of any of the numerous experts the defendant wishes to have appointed,” the response said. “In fact, they appear inapplicable to this case; i.e., serology, DNA, fingerprints, etc.”

The response concluded with a request that the court deny the motions to sever and appoint experts. A court ruling has not yet been issued.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews