WILKES-BARRE — A Luzerne County judge denied a request to recuse himself from overseeing a jury trial related to a Wilkes-Barre shooting despite claims of a questionable statement.
Attorney Nanda Palissery recently filed a motion seeking Judge Joseph F. Sklarosky Jr. to remove himself from the trial of his client, Marquis Ford, which is scheduled to begin next week.
Ford, 38, and his girlfriend, Stameesha M. Richardson-Gunter, 33, were charged by Wilkes-Barre police following a shooting on Lynch Lane on March 10, 2021, when Johnny Gunter suffered gunshot wounds to his torso.
Investigators allege the shooting was in retaliation for Johnny Gunter allegedly stabbing Ford on Oct. 19, 2019. Johnny Gunter, who survived the shooting, is a brother to Richardson-Gunter.
In the motion, Palissery claims he and Assistant District Attorney Drew McLaughlin on Nov. 4 met with Sklarosky in the judge’s chambers to discuss pending issues about the case.
Normally, a stenographer is not present when attorneys and judges meet in chambers.
During heated discussions, Sklarosky questioned the bail status of Ford, the motion says.
Upon learning Ford had posted bail, Palissery in the motion maintains the judge said: “I can’t believe this guy (Ford) is still walking the streets. After putting that many slugs into this guy (Gunter).”
Based on the alleged statement, Palissery filed the motion for Sklarosky to recuse himself from presiding over the trial, believing the judge had pre-determined Ford’s guilt.
“Ford believes that the remarks made by the trial judge in the pre-trial conference of Nov. 4, 2022, indicate a certain bias toward defendant and that the same warrant this request for recusal as Ford believes that the trial judge cannot preside over this trial in an objective manner,” the motion says.
Palissery filed the recusal motion on Nov. 9.
Four days later, Sklarosky denied the motion in a single page order writing, “The court does not share defense counsel’s recollection of the conference.”
Palissery could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Under Pennsylvania’s Code of Judicial Conduct, judges are prohibited from publicly discussing pending proceedings.
Court records say Ford was released after posting $200,000 bail on April 21, 2021.
Ford and Richardson-Gunter are each charged with two counts of aggravated assault and a single count of criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated assault.