DOVER, Del. (AP) - A federal judge on Tuesday denied a defense request to transfer to another state the stalking trial of relatives of a man who killed two people at a Delaware courthouse in 2013.
Philadelphia-based Judge Gerald McHugh said that in recusing himself from the case last year, U.S District Judge Gregory Sleet of Delaware did not - as defense attorneys argued - simultaneously grant a defense motion to transfer the Matusiewicz family case to another district.
Sleet and all other federal judges in Delaware were recused from the case after prosecutors disclosed the discovery of a purported "hit list" with Sleet's name in courthouse gunman Thomas Matusiewicz's car.
"It might seem anomalous to hold that, where all judges sitting in the District of Delaware have recused themselves, a jury of Delaware citizens should be impaneled to hear the matter," McHugh wrote.
But McHugh noted that recusal is meant to preserve judicial impartiality. "That has been accomplished by reassignment of the case to a judge outside Delaware," he added.
McHugh left open the possibility of revisiting the issue of where to hold the trial should developments raise doubts about the ability to choose a fair and impartial jury in Delaware. Trial is expected to begin in June.
David Matusiewicz, his mother, Lenore, and his sister, Amy Gonzalez, are charged with conspiracy and stalking of David Matusiewicz's ex-wife, Christine Belford. They could face life in prison if convicted of stalking that resulted in her death.
Belford and a friend were fatally shot by her former father-in-law, Thomas Matusiewicz, in the lobby of the New Castle County courthouse in Wilmington in February 2013 after they showed up for a child support hearing. Thomas Matusiewicz then exchanged gunfire with security officers before killing himself.
In April 2014, federal prosecutors produced a purported "hit list" containing Sleet's name that was found in Matusiewicz's car.
Sleet had presided over a case in which David Matusiewicz pleaded guilty in 2009 to federal fraud and kidnapping charges after he and his mother took his three daughters to Central America. Lenore Matusiewicz served more than a year in state prison for her role in the kidnapping. The Matusiewicz family has said they were trying to protect one of the daughters from being sexually abused by Belford, an assertion Sleet said at the time had not been proven.
Following the courthouse shooting, prosecutors claimed that David Matusiewicz conspired with his parents and sister over several years to torment and stalk his ex-wife with the intent to injure, harass, intimidate and kill her.
But Thomas Matusiewicz's family members have denied knowing that he intended to kill Belford.
Jeremy Ibrahim, an attorney for Gonzalez who had asked that the trial be transferred to another district, declined to comment on McHugh's ruling, saying he had not yet read it.