BETHLEHEM TWP., Pa. - A Northampton County man claimed he killed his neighbor in self-defense, and a jury believed him.
The not-guilty verdict was reached Tuesday in the Joshua Leone trial. It took more than nine hours for the jury to finally declare Leone an innocent man.
"They took their job seriously. They didn't come to a rush to judgment, a quick verdict," said Bob Goldman, Leone's attorney.
Goldman said he's grateful the jury came to the same conclusion he did: That Leone was acting in self defense when he pulled the trigger of his shotgun, killing Kenneth Pickell in the garage of his Clifton Ave., Bethlehem Township home in February of 2021. The two had allegedly been feuding for some time, but Goldman said it was Pickell who instigated the final confrontation, not Leone.
"What makes it really hard when you represent a client is when you know he's innocent, you know he's been sitting in jail for two years being an innocent man," said Goldman.
The only eyewitness in the trial was Michelle Kurtz, Pickell's girlfriend. Goldman said he's surprised the prosecution put her on the stand.
"Their eyewitness admitted during the trial that she committed perjury well over 10, 15 times in another, earlier court proceeding," said Goldman.
Deputy District Attorney James Augustine defended Kurtz's role as an integral part of their case.
"Her testimony had some inconsistencies, but I don't believe that it rose to the level of outright lying about material aspects of this case," said Augustine.
Goldman said Leone has been waiting in jail for this verdict for two years. He now gets to see his wife and three children, one of whom he's never met.
"His wife at the time of this incident was pregnant, and he's never seen his newborn son," said Goldman.
We also caught up with Leone as he was leaving the Northampton County Jail right after 5 p.m. Tuesday.
"This has been the worst two years of my life. I was incarcerated for saving my life," said Leone. "I missed the birth of my son, and I lost my house, I lost my cars and I'm literally starting from scratch."
Goldman said the verdict gives him faith that the justice system still works.
"It's just wonderful that, in this country, this can happen. The right decision happened," said Goldman.