CLEARFIELD – After nearly four hours of deliberation at the Clearfield County Courthouse, the jury in the Andrew Callahan trial retuned a guilty verdict on all counts.
Callahan faced charges of first-degree murder, third-degree murder, aggravated assault and abuse of a corpse for killing Micah Pollock in Nov. 5, 1997.
Callahan and Pollock were students at Glendale High School at the time. Pollock was 15, and Callahan was 16.
The boys had traveled to the Pine Run area of Beccaria Township after school. Callahan said the boys were going grouse hunting, and he loaded one shell into a .12-gauge shotgun. Pollock was to flush out grouse for Callahan.
As the two were walking back to the vehicle to leave, Callahan’s attorneys claimed, Pollock chided Callahan about his shooting ability because he missed a bird. Callahan’s testimony from the 1998 trial was presented by defense attorney Robert Lape Wednesday. Lape pointed out that Callahan said he thought it would be humorous to point the gun at Pollock’s back and then pull the trigger, to pretend to shoot him. Callahan said he expected to hear a “clicking” sound and that Pollock would turn around and be surprised.
Testimony provided during the trial suggested that Callahan smoked marijuana on the day of the shooting. Callahan also claimed that he crushed five mescaline pills – a hallucinogen — and snorted them.
When Callahan pulled the trigger, a shell that had been in the gun was fired, causing a fatal wound to Pollock’s back.
Callahan returned to the site of the killing and drug Pollock’s body behind a car to a beaver pond.
Pollock’s body was found six days later after the pond was drained.
Callahan was convicted of first-degree murder in the case nearly 10 years ago. That decision was overturned by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, which determined that then-Clearfield County President Judge John K. Reilly Jr. (now senior judge) erred when giving instructions to the jury.
Callahan did not take the witness stand during this week’s trial.
The jury’s verdict was returned after several questions were asked of Clearfield County President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman, who presided over the four-day trial.
The first question from the jury concerned the need for clarified instructions with the two degrees of murder.
The jury requested visual aids used by Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. during his closing arguments. The posters outlined the elements for each of the types of murder charged in the case.
Ammerman explained that the jury was not permitted to have written instructions to take to the jury room in denying the request.
Another question from the jury asked whether the shotgun used in the crime could be taken to the jury room. The judge deemed that it would be an appropriate exhibit for the jury to examine and asked counsel whether there were any objections. None were voiced.
The jury asked for the judge to explain third-degree murder verbally, and he did so, outlining three mental states that can constitute malice — the intent to kill, the intent to inflict serious bodily harm or injury or acting with a wickedness of disposition or recklessness for the consequences.
The jury foreman asked, then, what the difference was between third-degree murder and first-degree murder, because both carry the stipulation that the person acted with malice.
Ammerman explained that for a person to be convicted of first-degree murder, then the type of malice involved would be that the person had the intent to kill.
The trial wrapped up one day before it was scheduled to do so.
Sentencing in the case will take place next week. The exact date and time of the proceeding has yet to be scheduled.
Shaw said that Pollock’s family was pleased with the verdict, but noted the difficult nature of sitting through a trial twice.
“I know everyone wishes that we didn’t have to go through with this again,” he said.
Shaw said he believed there were not “loose ends” left during the trial.
“I don’t see any legitimate appellate issues.”
Shaw said that if the jury had returned a third-degree verdict, Callahan could have been sentenced to serve 20 to 40 years in jail.
“At some point in his life, he could have expected to be paroled from prison.”
That will not happen, Shaw explained, because a first-degree murder conviction carries with it a mandatory life sentence in Pennsylvania. The other offenses for which Callahan was found guilty will merge with the first-degree murder conviction for sentencing purposes.
Defense attorneys declined a request to comment.