HONESDALE-A homicide case that has been in the court system for almost a year is now facing scrutiny, with the issue of Miranda Rights being raised.
Robert Jufer, 72, was arrested in February for allegedly shooting his wife June on Oct. 17, 2010. He was arraigned for one count of criminal homicide and was taken to the Wayne County Prison. Jufer was given no bail since it was a murder.
A preliminary hearing was held in April with several witnesses and people involved with the investigation testifying.
Jufer said that he returned home from the store on Oct. 17, 2010and was attacked in his house, rendered unconscious and that when he regained consciousness he went to his neighbor's home.
Responding troopers discovered the body of June Jufer, deceased, in her bed.
An autopsy of June Jufer was performed on Oct. 18, 2010 and the cause of death was a shotgun wound to the head and manner of death was ruled homicide. A shotgun was located on the floor near the victim.
Subsequent interviews were conducted with Jufer in which he gave conflicting reports of the attack. Additionally, his lack of injury to his neck coupled with
physical evidence at the scene did not match the events as he reported them.
He went so far as to say he used the murder weapon earlier that morning to "look for a muskrat" near the residence and returned to the home where he placed it on the kitchen table before going to Wal-Mart.
He admitted that he did not look for his wife or arm himself with a weapon before fleeing the residence after the alleged attack.
A search of the Jufer residence revealed 108 rifles, shotguns and handguns in the home. The weapon located in June Jufer's bedroom, which was the weapon that killed her, was owned by Robert Jufer.
Jufer was located at his other home in Hastings on the Hudson, Westchester County, New York, and the arrest warrant was served by PSP and Hastings on the Hudson law enforcement.
He was taken into custody without incident. He appeared before a Westchester County City Court judge for an extradition hearing before coming back to Pennsylvania.
A pre-trial hearing, which began on Wednesday, started with testimonies from Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) Troopers John Decker and Adam Kowalczyk and ended with Jufer's attorneys, consisting of Bill Peters and Robert Buttner, filing a motion to exclude police interviews from the trial because he was "never read his Miranda rights."
Wayne County District Attorney Janine Edwards, representing the Commonwealth in this case, said that this kind of motion is to "squash information" the state has, saying that there "isn't enough" to take to a jury.
Page 2 of 3 - The hearing continued on Friday afternoon, when PSP Corporal William Castaldi, a member of the Polygraph and Major Crime Units, testified, as well as Jufer.
Castaldi relayed what happened when he interviewed Jufer on Oct. 17, 2010, saying that Trooper Decker "briefed him on the case," but had "limited information" due to the ongoing investigation.
He said Decker told him Jufer had questions about the polygraph test and its accuracy, which Castaldi answered.
"He said he had a friend who worked in the District Attorney's Office in New York and was told that the polygraph isn't accurate," Castaldi told the court. "I explained that it was his decision to take it and it was completely voluntary. I told him about the history of the polygraph and how now it's 90 to 98 percent accurate."
Jufer declined to take the polygraph test, but did agree to talk to Castaldi.
When Peters asked Castaldi if he read Jufer his Miranda rights, the answer was no.
"Trooper Decker didn't read them either and he said that as far as he knew, none of the officers who spoke to Mr. Jufer did either," Castaldi said.
When asked why, Castaldi said that Jufer "wasn't in custody."
In fact, while Kowalczyk did transport Jufer to PSP Honesdale Barracks in handcuffs, they were taken off upon arrival.
When Jufer took the stand Edwards asked him if it was correct that Kowalczyk told him why he was being cuffed as well as giving him the policy and procedure, to which Jufer said "yes."
Edwards emphasized that everything Jufer did that day was voluntary and that he was never obligated to participate at all.
"Nothing physically prevented you from leaving and no one said you can't leave, correct?" she asked Jufer, and he agreed. "You wrote your statement voluntarily, you were asked if you would talk to police again and you did so and each time you talked to Trooper Decker he said this is voluntary."
Jufer agreed with Edwards, but did add that he "didn't know" he had a choice.
Peters asked him if he was more volunteering or just being agreeable, to which Jufer said it was "hard to say."
"I wanted to help with the investigation, but I didn't feel I had a choice."
He said that he was afraid if he left that someone would come after him.
His defense is arguing that Jufer should have been read his Miranda rights, or at least be entitled to hear them, "no matter what," even if he wasn't in custody.
They submitted a brief and amended the motion. Judge Raymond Hamill, who presided at the hearing, gave the Commonwealth 10 days to respond to the defense's submission and then the defense has five days after that to respond.
Page 3 of 3 - A decision by the judge will follow.