John Peck stood earlier than a Westmoreland County jury in early December and for the up coming 40 minutes argued for a conviction.
It marked the ultimate time Peck would accomplish that because the county’s district lawyer — a piece he’s held since 1994. He leaves at 12 months’s end following failing in November to win a seventh time interval in workplace.
“I’m so absolutely dedicated to each situation that, proper up till I browse it within the paper, it by no means ever crossed my ideas it was the final demo,” Peck suggested the Tribune-Consider. “It’s important to be completely dedicated to strive a scenario.”
The 74-year-aged legislation agency has been prosecuting instances on condition that 1981, 1st as a component-time assistant, then because the county’s elected district lawyer. It’s the one activity he ever genuinely wanted and 1 that he grew into following an eight-year stint working all through the aisle as an assistant public defender.
Peck is a trial lawyer, and which is the best way he approached the job as district lawyer. For a few years, he took on the optimum-profile trials but in addition served because the direct prosecutor in circumstances that actually don’t continually make headlines. When he wasn’t standing in entrance of a jury, he was reviewing case info and lawful precedents from stacks of laws publications.
Frequent Pleas President Determine Rita Hathaway labored with Peck as an assistant district authorized skilled after which for him proper after he was appointed to substitute John Driscoll because the county’s main prosecutor.
“In my 33 many years as a trial authorized skilled and a select, John Peck is the best trial lawyer I’ve ever considered,” Hathaway talked about.
Hathaway has presided over a few of Peck’s most notable conditions, akin to all these of the 6 Greensburg roommates who have been being convicted within the 2010 torture and homicide of a mentally disabled lady and the conviction of a Harrison man sentenced to dying for the 2017 killing of New Kensington police Officer Brian Shaw.
‘Kill for Thrill’
As an assistant district authorized skilled in 1984, Peck took above the prosecutions of “Kill for Thrill” murderers John Lesko and Michael Travaglia. The 2 have been tried and convicted for a homicide spree during which they killed two males, a feminine and a rookie police officer involving Xmas 1979 and New Yr’s 1980.
Peck, who was not the prosecutor when the circumstances preliminary went to trial in 1981, was assigned to prosecute the cases once more instantly after an appeals courtroom vacated lack of life sentences at first imposed by jurors. Peck efficiently argued for loss of life sentences in the direction of Lesko in 1995 and Travaglia a ten years later.
Travaglia died in jail in 2017. Lesko carries on to problem his conviction and dying sentence. Peck traveled to Philadelphia earlier summer time months to argue simply earlier than a federal appeals courtroom in Lesko’s hottest attraction.
As prosecutors throughout the area have turned away from attempting to get the loss of life penalty, Peck ongoing to thrust for funds punishment in circumstances the place by he determined it utilized. Prior to now 12 months, he filed detect to hunt the lack of life penalty in opposition to two defendants: only one billed with killing an toddler and one other accused within the capturing deaths of a Penn Township few.
“I’ve a sworn obligation to uphold the regulation,” Peck said, noting the lack of life penalty stays on the publications in Pennsylvania. “These are instances the place by I believed the defendants couldn’t be rehabilitated.”
‘Super neighborhood servant’
For Peck, it’s usually in regards to the profession and the laws.
Those that operate with him say Peck is the supreme certified, but in addition a mentor and colleague — a person who, no matter his onerous outward demeanor within the courtroom, additionally has a sarcastic aspect and who at uncommon intervals even shows a little bit of humor.
Tony Marcocci, a detective within the district lawyer’s enterprise workplace, has been on the duty just about as prolonged as Peck. Marcocci expended a very long time functioning undercover and is a single of the handful of office staff who has accurately bucked Peck’s inflexible robe code, which requires gents to make use of dim suits, white shirts and ties when within the enterprise workplace and in courtroom.
“I feel he simply gave up on me,” Marcocci joked.
Marcocci recalled a demo during which he sat following to Peck, who was not proud of what he was listening to on an audio recording of a drug provide. “He was busting my stones just because I wore cowboy boots which were clicking as I walked within the parking great amount,” Marcocci reported. “The voices have been simply mumbles, and all you would hear have been these boots.”
Peck typically has been greater than severe about his work.
He hasn’t improved his day-to-day schedule in many years. He drives to Greensburg from his home in New Kensington and commences each single working day by attending Mass at Our Girl of Grace Church. He then heads to the courthouse, the place by he’s generally the preliminary to reach on the workplace by 7:30 a.m. It’s not irregular for Peck to be the final a single to depart, prolonged simply after the daylight units, in accordance to staffers.
Driscoll, whose election as a county determine in 1994 created the opening within the district lawyer’s workplace that Peck crammed, nonetheless telephone calls him a pal. For about 40 years, they lunched collectively at minimal on the time a 7 days.
“I’ve acknowledged dozens of district legal professionals in regards to the years, and John simply stands over anybody. He’s an enormous public servant,” Driscoll reported.
Stephen A. Zappala Jr., Allegheny County’s district authorized skilled as a result of 1998, has labored with Peck for greater than 20 years.
“He has been extremely passionate in regards to the people of Westmoreland County, and his time as DA has been impactful and highly effective for his fellow residents,” Zappala said. “John is an efficient particular person, and I salute his a number of years of companies and would love him a prolonged, joyful and healthful retirement.”
Peck’s motivation to his conditions and legal offense victims and his perseverance to the job, functioning prolonged hours and on weekends, is what stood out to Driscoll.
“He would think about just a few days off and get in contact with it a vacation trip,” Driscoll reported.
Like Peck, Dante Bertani served additional than 40 many years as a neighborhood servant. Bertani, the county’s initially chief neighborhood defender, employed Peck in 1972 after which grew to become an everyday opponent. It wasn’t irregular for attorneys to pack courtroom galleries to have a look at them struggle round cases that, at occasions, sounded rather more like barroom arguments than licensed proceedings.
“One of many initially conditions I attempted out in opposition to John, I ended up worthwhile. In his closing, John talked about he labored for me and uncovered from me. After I gained, I defined to him I didn’t prepare him each factor,” Bertani reported. “He acquired mad at me and didn’t chat to me for a pair of months.”
However there was normally a backdrop of respect.
“John was typically extraordinarily tough. He was not uncomplicated and didn’t give every thing absent,” Bertani stated.
‘Steward of the workplace’
It’s the politics that may very well be Peck’s minimal favorite part of the job. However politics is in his blood.
His father served rather more than a dozen yrs as county sheriff, proper up till 1980. His sister even now serves as a district select in Lower Burrell.
“Politics for him was a lifestyle,” Peck defined of his father. “I normally considered myself a lawyer, not a politician. I don’t think about about politics. It must not ever ever be factor of this enterprise.”
His arms-size watch of politics might maybe be, partly, why Peck was unable to get an extra phrase in office. He was defeated in November by Republican Nicole Ziccarelli, who’s established to accumulate greater than in January.
Peck claimed he has no regrets in regards to the advertising and marketing marketing campaign. And although he acknowledged defeat, he intends to stay on the place by means of the shut of his time interval. He used considerably of his ultimate weeks in enterprise workplace getting ready for courtroom hearings scheduled simply earlier than 12 months’s conclude.
“I’m a steward of the District Legal professional’s Workplace, and I’m consumed to complete the job simply earlier than I go away enterprise workplace,” Peck said. “I’ll skip the place, however it’s not the shut of on a regular basis residing. Upcoming to my family, it’s very gratifying and satisfying.”