New charges in 38-year-old crime called ‘moral’ double jeopardy

    A man convicted of attempted murder more than 35 years ago now faces charges of criminal homicide — for the same crime.

    Domingo Negron surrendered Wednesday to Warminster police after the Bucks County district attorney’s office reopened the case following the death of the victim. Paralyzed in the 1973 shooting, Joseph Kwiatkowski died in June 2009.

    The grand jury’s report reads almost like scene from “West Side Story.” In the early 1970s, newly arrived Puerto Ricans were engaging in street battles with longtime white residents in Warminster.

    On a spring day in 1973, witnesses described how a fist fight escalated into a shooting that left Kwiatkowski, then 18, a paraplegic. Negron was convicted of attempted murder and served one year in prison.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Negron’s attorney, Craig Penglase, said retrying his client is a case of “moral” double jeopardy.

    “They made a decision to prosecute him knowing that the man may die. Knowing that, they went forward with the prosecution,” said Penglase. “They now want to go back and do it all over again, knowing now the same thing they knew then — which was that the man would pass as a result of his injuries.”

    But Bucks County Deputy District Attorney David Zellis said it’s perfectly legal to charge someone with murder in a case such as this if the victim’s death can be directly linked to the original injury.

    “If we can prove that there’s an unbroken chain of events that led to the death from the time of the shooting, then he should be held criminally responsible,” Zellis said.

    The grand jury report says Kwiatkowski suffered from repeated infections until the day he died. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for next month.

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal