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Rorrer counsel seeks Reichley’s recusal

The attorney for Patricia Rorrer, convicted of killing Catasauqua resident Joanne Katrinak and her infant son, Alex, in December 1994, has filed a motion for recusal of Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas Judge Doug Reichley.

Attorney Troy R. Crichton, of Gibbons Legal, Philadelphia, represented Rorrer at a habeas corpus hearing before Reichley Nov. 6, 2023. The question at the hearing was whether the original prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence from Rorrer’s then-defense team, Attorneys James Burke and James Pfeiffer.

The remains of the mother and son were found Palm Sunday 1995 in a wooded area of Heidelberg Township by a farmer plowing his field. Rorrer was found guilty March 9, 1998, of two counts each of first-degree murder and kidnapping. She was subsequently sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment on the murder charges, followed by two consecutive one- to 20-year terms of imprisonment for kidnapping.

Crichton’s recusal motion, filed May 1, questions Reichley’s appearance of bias in Rorrer’s proceeding.

According to the motion, Crichton cites Reichley’s previously unknown and undisclosed public statement about Rorrer’s case; his involvement in pretrial motions; and his position as acting district attorney during her pending criminal case, which he says all require recusal.

The recusal motion states the first hearing to occur in Rorrer’s case after Reichley’s appointment, in 2012, was held April 5, 2016, during which Reichley disclosed on the record to Rorrer’s then-counsel, Craig Neely, Esq., that while he had worked at the district attorney’s office from 1989 until 2000, he was not involved in Rorrer’s case.

The motion states, “With this assurance, Mr. Neely did not seek recusal.”

According to the recusal motion, Rorrer’s criminal docket from Jan. 28, 1998, included a copy of the commonwealth’s Motion in Limine (retrial motion asking that certain evidence be found inadmissible) and request for view filed on behalf of Acting District Attorney Douglas G. Reichley and Prosecutor Michael P. McIntyre.

The motions sought to prevent any reference to the failed polygraph results of Andrew Katrinak, Joanne Katrinak’s husband; any questioning of the commonwealth’s witnesses about their “unflattering opinions” of Joann Katrinak’s personal life; and testimony about Andrew Katrinak’s debts.

Crichton’s recusal motion states, in part, “A judge should recuse himself when: in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned; ... [the judge has] personal knowledge of facts that are in dispute in the proceeding; ... [the judge] served in governmental employment, and in such capacity participated personally and substantially as a lawyer or public official concerning the proceeding; and ... [when the judge has] publicly expressed in such capacity an opinion concerning the merits of the particular matter in controversy ...”