Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

It took 9 days for former D.A. to come clean on hunter's shooting death, affidavit says

It took nine days for Michael D. Marino, former district attorney of Montgomery County, to come forward and tell police all he knew about the fatal shooting of a deer hunter in a suburban thicket on Nov. 29.

It took nine days for Michael D. Marino, former district attorney of Montgomery County, to come forward and tell police all he knew about the fatal shooting of a deer hunter in a suburban thicket on Nov. 29.

So says an affidavit in a case that is drawing attention as officials sort out what is being labeled an unintentional homicide, one in which Marino's nephew David M. Manilla stands accused of involuntary manslaughter.

The affidavit raises questions about Marino's conduct as part of Manilla's hunting party - especially his delay in telling what happened after the hunters found the body of Barry Groh, of Quakertown.

Besides his legal obligations as a citizen, Marino is sworn to behave ethically as an attorney and officer of the court.

As Manilla's lawyer in a previous felony conviction, Marino also knew that Manilla wasn't permitted to carry a firearm. He admitted knowing as well that the high-powered rifle Manilla carried wasn't legal for hunting in a populated suburban area.

Marino, 67, served as district attorney from 1989 through 2000, and has spent most of his career as a prosecutor or defense lawyer.

"Marino stated that he neglected to inform investigators about certain things that occurred after they discovered the body in the creek," the affidavit said, "and that he had not been fully forthcoming with investigators."

On Dec. 9, in his second sit-down interview with authorities, Marino finally reported, among other things, that he had seen Manilla "running around trying to find a place to hide the rifle."

After the shooting, the affidavit said, the members of the hunting party gave police their names and contact numbers, but left without saying goodbye. They had not disputed an emergency worker who suggested, at first, that Groh might have died of a heart attack.

Marino carried a cell phone but did not call for an ambulance. Manilla ultimately made the 911 call, but only after what Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler described as an attempt to "conceal his culpability."

Marino later said Groh was shot around noon. Manilla made the call at 12:39 p.m.

Heckler said that while not helping police early on, Marino eventually provided the information on which the charges against the 45-year-old Manilla, also a lawyer, are based.

"Would it seem to have been more appropriate that he be immediately forthcoming?" he asked rhetorically. "You betcha."

Marino, in a statement released by his attorney, Republican Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr., said he was "greatly saddened" by Groh's death. Marino said he realized his nephew "must be held accountable" if the law warrants it, and said he had provided authorities with "a complete account of what happened."

Two attorneys not involved in the case noted Friday that lawyers are bound to behave ethically or face possible disciplinary action - up to loss of their law license.

"A lawyer can never lie, misrepresent, or engage in fraudulent conduct or deceitful conduct," said Samuel C. Stretton Jr., of West Chester, who represents lawyers and judges in disciplinary cases.

If Marino misled police, "that by itself is a serious situation," Stretton said. "You're a lawyer 24 hours a day. It's not just limited to your legal duties."

L. George Parry, a former federal and state prosecutor, said state courts have held that it is not a crime to lie when being questioned by the police. It is a crime, he said, to approach police with a falsehood.

If Marino withheld information, he said, "that is not the same thing as establishing that he volunteered false information."

"As a D.A. he was well aware of the law," Parry said, "and undoubtedly walked a very careful line."

Heckler said that "as a human being," he was "offended" Marino hadn't immediately called 911.

"I'm offended that it took that long while that man lay in the creek for help to be summoned, even though I don't have any reason to believe that summoning help sooner would have done him any good."