There seems to have been an interesting development in Telugu Bidda Raghunandan Yandamuri’s murder and kidnapping case.
Based on recent court filings, it appears that Raghunandan Yandamuri may have dismissed his Public Defender Attorney Stephen G. Heckman.
The move comes barely three months before the scheduled start of Yandamuri’s trial in a Pennsylvania court.
Besides murder, Raghunandan Yandamuri faces several other serious charges including kidnapping, burglary and abuse of corpse.
Raghunandan Yandamuri, 27, has been charged with the murders of 10-month-old Saanvi Venna and her 61-year-old grandmother Satyavathi Venna in their King of Prussia Apartment on October 22, 2012.
Raghunandan Yandamuri is a Telugu native who hails from the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, a region famous for Dum Biryani and notorious for obscenely awful Tollywood movies where the hero, buffoon and villain are often indistinguishable.
Yandamuri is currently in custody at the Montgomery County Prison, Pennsylvania.
Yandamuri Dismisses Attorney?
On Tuesday, June 4, 2013, Raghunandan Yandamuri sent letters to the Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman and his court-appointed Public Defender attorney Stephen G. Heckman.
The two letters, both dated June 4, 2013, have the subject – Pro Se Correspondence Letter to DA and Pro Se Correspondence Letter to My Lawyer in the court filings.
Pro Se is legal jargon which means representing oneself in a court.
Here’s how the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida explains Pro Se:
Most legal dictionaries define the term “pro se” as someone who represents themself in a legal procedure without the aid of an attorney. It is an established tenet that you have the right to represent yourself in a court of law, however, many people do not understand that choosing to represent yourself means that the Court will expect you to follow the same rules and procedures that an attorney must follow. The Judge in your case may not do anything to give any appearance of being partial to either side and this includes giving legal advice and having contact with either party without the other being present. Generally, when you go into court, the Judge will give you much information about what may be wrong with whatever pleadings you filed. Listen carefully; if you do not understand what is being said at the time, you can take that information and see an attorney afterwards to get a better understanding of what was said.
Based on the court filings and the meaning of Pro Se as explained by the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, we are inferring that Raghunandan Yandamuri has written to the court seeking to terminate his Public Defender attorney.
Since Raghu Yandamuri lacks the financial resources to hire a lawyer to represent him, the court appointed Stephen Heckman as his attorney.
It’s not clear why Raghu Yandamuri chose this drastic course of action.
One obvious reason is that there were differences between Raghunandan Yandamuri and his attorney Stephen Heckman on the legal strategy to be adopted in the case.
Raghunandan Yandamuri has already confessed on video to the killings to the police but claims the deaths were accidental.
The Prosecution is seeking the death penalty for Raghunandan Yandamuri.
Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said on January 15, 2013:
We only seek the death penalty in limited cases, reserving it for the worst of the worst….In this case, we carefully evaluated the evidence before deciding to file the notice of our intention to seek the death penalty. In the two murders of Saanvi and Satyavathi, there is evidence of a number of aggravating factors including murder, while the victim was being held for ransom, killing in perpetration of a felony, multiple murders, murder of a child under (age) 12 and murder of a witness.
Since we’re not privy to the communication between Raghunandan Yandamuri and his attorney Stephen Heckman, it’s hard to surmise the precise nature of disagreements on the legal strategy, if any.
In a general sense, defendants dismiss their attorneys because they no longer have the confidence that they will get a fair trial if represented by the attorney.
For Raghunandan Yandamuri, the stakes are very high. If he’s found “Guilty,” he faces the death penalty.
The trial date for Raghunandan Yandamuri has previously been fixed for September 9, 2013 in the court room of Judge Steven T. O. Neill of the Court of Common Pleas of the Montgomery County, PA.
It remains to be seen if Raghunandan Yandamuri’s recent letters to the court will cause a delay in the start of the trial.
Most likely, Raghunandan Yandamuri will seek additional time to prepare for the case if he’s defending himself.
Don’t be surprised if the trial date gets pushed back to the end of 2013 or early 2014.
Trial Date for Telugu Bidda Raghunandan Yandamuri Fixed
I am NOT GUILTY – Raghunandan Yandamuri
Police Complaint Against Raghunandan Yandamuri
Raghunandan Yandamuri’s Video Confession
Telugu Bidda Raghu Yandamuri’s Gamble Failed Big Time
Essential Facts about Raghunandan Yandamuri
Understanding Raghu Yandamuri’s Case