innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Monday, September 26, 2005

Nicknames in Court

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) --

A defense attorney has asked a judge to bar any references to his client's nickname - "Scuz" - in his upcoming murder trial, saying the moniker could negatively influence jurors.

Demetrius "Scuz" Fiorentino, 31, of Coatesville, is charged with the April 2004 robbery and shooting death of Joel "Wellz" Taylor, 19, of Queens, N.Y., during a botched drug deal in a Coatesville crack house in Coatesville.

Defense attorney Laurence Harmelin cited the dictionary definition of scuzzball as "an unpleasant, dirty or dangerous person; creep" and scuzzy as "dirty, shabby or foul in condition or nature." Harmelin told Common Pleas Judge Phyllis Streitel on Friday that connotations of Fiorentino's nickname would prejudice jurors against the defendant.

Assistant District Attorney Lorraine Finnegan said it would be nearly impossible for witnesses to identify the defendant without using his nickname. "All of these witnesses are going to have to call him by the name they know," she said. "We're not calling him a scuzzball or scuzzy ... it's 'Scuz' because that is his nickname.

"Harmelin also asked to have the trial moved out of Chester County, citing publicity surrounding the case. Finnegan wants the trial to stay in the county.It was unclear when the judge would issue decisions on the requests. Jury selection in Fiorentino's capital murder trial is scheduled to begin Oct.19.

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