Trials & Litigation

Wanted: Skilled lawyer to defend high-profile client in capital case on rush basis

The removal of a Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer from a capital murder case, after she and her client were charged with attempting to intimidate witnesses, has created a big problem for Luzerne County’s court administrator.

Finding a new lawyer to replace Shelley Centini, who was being paid $85 an hour for her work, won’t be easy, the Standard Speaker reports.

Because trial is looming for Centini’s now-former client, Hugo Selenski, the new defense lawyer will have to clear his or her desk of other matters in order to work on a case. A prior defense attorney for Selenski, Demetrius Fannick, thinks it will be a tough sell. If an attorney took the case for $100 an hour, he or she could rack up a $25,000 bill just while working 15-hour days during a monthlong trial.

“What are they going to offer the lawyer? If they say, look, we’re going to give you a $30,000 cap, who’s going to do that?” Fannick said.

Meanwhile, Selenski, who is charged in a 2002 double murder, won’t be easy to represent for this and other reasons. His earlier prosecution history could present conflicts for local lawyers in the county’s tight-knit bar, the newspaper notes.

And the state requires lawyers to be certified to defend death-penalty cases; only 11 lawyers in Luzerne County, including Centini, have met the required criteria. A total of 23 lawyers are certified in five neighboring counties.

“How do I call someone up and say, ‘How do you approach people on this?’ ” court administrator Michael Shucosky wondered aloud last week as he talked to a Standard Speaker reporter. “It’s going to be a huge task. I will be soliciting.”

See also: “Charged with perjury along with client, lawyer is taken off murder case over defendant’s objection”

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