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DA asks judge to keep Edmundson plea out of courtroom

Prosecutors in Blair County have asked a judge to keep testimony regarding a January guilty plea by a codefendant out of the courtroom when Marie Louise Seilhamer comes before a jury within the next few months.
District Attorney Dave Gorman filed the request last week with Judge Jolene Kopriva in the Blair County Court of Common Pleas.
Gorman believes attorney Thomas Dickey of Altoona will use co-defendant Kristin Edmundson’s January guilty plea to shift the entire blame of the May 2001 beating death away from his 21-year-old client.
“It has no relevance in terms of this issue,” said Gorman this morning. “The co-defendant (Edmundson) in this case really has no bearing on, ultimately, the truth-determining process by the jury about the other person (Seilhamer).
“The fact that Ms. Edmundson is really not evidence against Seilhamer, one way or the other, is really not an issue the jury should be appraised of. Therefore, I want to make sure it doesn’t get mentioned in this trial and the jury will then only be able to consider the evidence against Ms. Seilhamer.”
Gorman is expecting Dickey to fight the commonwealth’s motion, but said he doesn’t understand why he’s wasting his time.
“I really don’t understand what his reasons will be for arguing this. In my eyes, the case law is pretty clear that it doesn’t come in,” he said, “but obviously, we’ll find out what his argument is whenever we get to that point.”
Prosecutors contend Seilhamer and Edmundson drove 20-year-old Shari Lee Jackson of Hollidaysburg to a pull-off area just across the Blair County Line on May 5 , 2001. There, authorities say Seilhamer repeatedly struck Jackson with a wooden baseball bat. That affidavit of probable cause states Edmundson then slit Jackson’s throat with a box cutter after the beating was over.
According to the affidavit, the two then loaded the body in a truck and transported the corpse a short distance.
The next day, police said a Boswell couple assisted Edmundson with burning the body and disposing of evidence.
Dickey was unavailable for comment this morning.
Also, Gorman asked Kopriva to allow Jackson’s mother, Robin, to attend trial proceedings. However, Robin Jackson is present on Gorman’s current witness list.
“Normally, if a person is a witness, they are not allowed to be in the courtroom while the other witnesses are testifying,” said Gorman. “Our position is that the mother has an emotional need to be there and secondary, her part, as far as testimony is concerned, will be minor.”
Gorman said Robin Jackson will be called to the witness stand to testify to event leading to the identification of the body.
Gorman said the judge will rule on the motions after both attorneys argue the matters before the court. Hearing dates have not yet been set.
Also, Gorman said he is waiting on a judge’s decision concerning where the trial would be held or if a non-county jury will hear the case. Many months ago, Dickey petitioned the court to have a change of venue or change of venire granted in the case.
He claimed extensive media accounts of the events surrounding the case would not allow his client to receive a fair and impartial trial in Blair County.
But according to Gorman, Dickey has since said that he would like his client’s case to be heard from a panel of Blair County jurors.
“He can’t have his cake and eat it too,” said Gorman. “I just want to be assured that if the judge decides to stay in the county with a jury, that he (Dickey) won’t be going back saying that he wants an out-of-county jury to hear the case.”
Last month, Edmundson entered into a guilty plea agreement that would save her from capital punishment, but would require a life sentence. Her attorney claimed there was too much circumstantial evidence to risk her life with a jury.
Gorman has said that he may use Edmundson to testify at Seilhamer’s trial and noted the judge’s acceptance of the plea would be contingent upon her cooperation with the state during her codefendant’s trial proceedings.
A trial date has not yet been set in the case and Kopriva must rule on a number of pre-sentence motions before such a date can be established. Gorman said if she decided that an out-of-county jury is necessary, the matter would be sent to the state’s Supreme Court, which would then decide which county a jury pool could be chosen from.