BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) — Two men attempting to clear their names for a 1993 murder have been granted a hearing to make their case. They are likely to get some help from David Sweat, a convicted murderer who made national headlines for his escape from a Dannemora, New York prison in 2015.
“I’m expecting the hearing to go two or three days,” said Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma, the attorney who represents James Pugh. Pugh and Brian Scott Lorenzo spent decades in prison for the 1993 murder of Deborah Meindl in Tonawanda. But more recent testing of the murder weapons excludes their DNA, so State Supreme Court Justice Christopher Burns has scheduled a hearing for December 13 to help him decide whether that information would’ve changed the outcome of their trials.
Their new defense lawyers are taking it a step further claiming that the Tonawanda mother may have been murdered by Richard Matt, who was killed during his escape from prison in Dannemora with David Sweat. Sweat survived and now lawyers confirm to News 4 that Sweat is likely to be called as a witness who has given a sworn affidavit claiming that Richard Matt once told him that he was close friends with a Tonawanda Police officer. The affidavit says in part;
‘The officer and Matt worked together to take drugs and money from drug dealers. and that a woman planned to turn in the officer. The officer directed Matt to kill the female victim, which Matt did along with another person.’
“If he tells that story, I think it also raises a likelihood that the verdict would’ve gone the other way,” said Margulis-Ohnuma regarding Sweat’s potential testimony next month. “He told that story in an affidavit and the time has come for him to tell it LIVE. Whether it’s true or not , if that information had been available to the trial lawyers, it would’ve been a fair trial, which it wasn’t because that information was withheld.”
Brian Scott Lorenzo remains in prison for the 1993 murder. Pugh served his full term and is now on parole for life.
George Richert is an award-winning reporter who first joined the News 4 team in 1998, later returning in 2018. See more of his work here.