Urwin appeal denied

Photo courtesy of the Herald-Standard

The state Superior Court denied an appeal filed by Robert Urwin, 62, of Dunlevy. Urwin is serving a 10- to- 20-year sentence for killing 16-year-old Mary Gency of Charleroi. The murder occurred in 1977, but the case sat cold until 2010, when advances in DNA led to Urwin’s arrest.

The state Superior Court found there was “no evidence” presented that a former Washington County judge was under the influence of cocaine when he presided over the 2011 murder trial of a Dunlevy man.

The ruling came as part of a post-conviction appeal filed by 62-year-old Robert W. Urwin, who was convicted of third-degree murder in the death of 16-year-old Mary Gency of Charleroi.

While Gency was killed in 1977, Urwin wasn’t charged until 2010. He opted to forego a jury trial, having former Judge Paul Pozonsky decide the case. Pozonsky found Urwin guilty in 2011 and sentenced him to 10 to 20 years in prison.

Pozonsky later pleaded guilty to charges that he took evidence and used cocaine from cases over which he presided. He was disbarred.

Attorney Brian Zeiger, who represented Urwin in an appeal filed under the Post-Conviction Relief Act, contended Pozonsky was under the influence during Urwin’s trial.

In 2017, Washington County Judge John F. DiSalle denied the appeal, prompting Urwin to ask the Superior Court to review the matter.

In an opinion issued Tuesday, a three-judge panel agreed with DiSalle, noting testimony from Urwin’s trial attorney and the prosecutor who tried the case. Both attorneys testified that they saw nothing unusual with Pozonsky’s behavior during the trial.

“Despite the deplorable nature of Pozonsky’s actions, the circumstances of his guilty plea and disbarment do not support (Urwin’s) accusation. In fact, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s opinion ordering Pozonsky’s disbarment emphasizes that Pozonsky’s theft was not part of an uncontrollable addiction,” wrote Superior Court President Judge Jack A. Penella. “We observe that (Urwin) does not indicate any particular instance in the trial transcripts where Pozonsky acted erratically or otherwise in accordance with (Urwin’s) theory of intoxication.”

The Superior Court also debunked a claim that Urwin did not knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily give up his right to a jury trial. The opinion noted Urwin waived that issue because he did not raise it in a timely manner.

Urwin had also claimed his trial attorney should have challenged his arrest, which occurred 33 years after Gency’s nude body was found in a field in Fallowfield Township on Feb. 19, 1977. Her clothing was scattered in the field and on the road, and an autopsy determined she was five to six weeks pregnant.

State police with the cold case unit charged Urwin in 2010, one year after submitting Gency’s clothing and autopsy samples for DNA testing.

Those tests found Urwin’s DNA was on her underwear.

Because that type of DNA was available in 1999, Urwin contended the decade delay in performing the tests should have resulted in the charges against him being thrown out.

Additional DNA may have been found without the delay, he contended, and key witnesses died or were unable to recall details from 30 years earlier.

The opinion noted a state police investigator who testified during the appeal hearing said that the DNA analysis used in the case was not available to his unit until 2008 or 2009.

Urwin remains incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Somerset.

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