Montco judge rebukes accused killer of baby, grandmother

Posted: February 02, 2014

With the victims' family members sitting nearby, the man accused of killing a baby and her grandmother in 2012 received a scolding from a judge Friday for interrupting his attorney and trying to control the proceedings.

"You are not, at this stage, your own lawyer," Judge Steven T. O'Neill said to Raghunandan Yandamuri.

The father of the baby - the son of the grandmother - sat quietly between two relatives during the proceeding.

O'Neill's comments came near the end of a hearing in which prosecutors and defense attorneys argued a defense motion to have Yandamuri's confession and other evidence barred from his trial.

Yandamuri could receive the death penalty if a jury convicts him of first-degree murder in the October 2012 killings of 10-month-old Saanvi Venna and her grandmother, Satyavathi Venna, 61, at a King of Prussia apartment complex. His trial is tentatively set for May.

The killings occurred at the Marquis complex in King of Prussia during what police said was a botched plan to kidnap Saanvi and ask her parents, Venkata Konda Siva Venna and Chenchu Latha Punuru, for ransom.

Since his arrest, the 27-year-old Indian citizen has been extremely vocal about his case, including contending that he was deprived of his rights by police during questioning.

He had asked to dismiss his court-appointed attorneys, Stephen G. Heckman and Henry S. Hilles III, and be allowed to represent himself. He later changed his mind.

Yandamuri also has disavowed his confession, saying he was coerced during 17 hours of questioning at the Upper Merion Township Police Department.

On Friday, Heckman orally recapped the arguments he had filed, saying that no physical force was used to elicit Yandamuri's statements, but that authorities employed "psychological coercion and subterfuge."

Montgomery County Deputy District Attorney Samantha Cauffman argued that county Detective Paul Bradbury's version of how he conducted the questioning was far more credible than Yandamuri's. Additionally, the defendant's controlling behavior so far in court suggests that he was smart enough and vocal enough to have held his own against police, she said.

When she was done, Yandamuri asked Heckman to read aloud several points he had written down while Cauffman spoke. After Heckman read some - and was interrupted again by Yandamuri - O'Neill made his remarks.

The judge said that he wanted to give Yandamuri every opportunity to have input in his case, but that he needed to talk with his attorneys prior to sessions.

"I'm sorry, your honor," Yandamuri said.

O'Neill said he would rule on the suppression motion and address a change-of-venue motion within the next several weeks.


cdavis@phillynews.com

610-313-8109

@carolyntweets

www.inquirer.com/montcomemo

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