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Judge rejects appeal by man convicted of 2011 New Kensington slaying

October 29, 2018 GMT

A Westmoreland County judge has rejected the appeal of an Arnold barber who is serving a life prison sentence for the 2011 fatal shooting of a romantic rival in New Kensington.

Raymond Rivera, 40, contended his lawyers failed to provide an adequate defense during his 2013 trial that resulted in a jury finding him guilty of first-degree murder. Rivera said his lawyers didn’t call a key witness to testify on his behalf, failed to properly investigate the crime scene and did not advise him about a plea bargain offered by prosecutors.

Rivera was found guilty of shooting John Evans, 37, of New Kensington. The prosecution contended Rivera believed Evans was romantically involved with his girlfriend. Rivera maintained that Evans had a gun during a confrontation between the men in the parking lot of a shopping plaza. He said he felt threatened and fired the fatal shots in self-defense.

Previous appeals by Rivera were rejected by Westmoreland County Common Pleas Judge Rita Hathaway and the state’s Superior Court.

In rejecting the latest appeal, Hathaway wrote in a 15-page opinion released this week that there was no basis for Rivera’s most recent appeal and she believed testimony by trial attorneys Chris Haidze and Jack Manderino that a plea bargain was never tendered by prosecutors.

“Defendant has not offered any proof that such a plea bargain offer existed. If defendant is arguing that he was unaware that a plea offer existed, it is unclear how defendant learned of such an offer that does not exist in the record nor in the public defender’s file,” the judge wrote.