Killer cop who shot ex-girlfriend had his rights violated when banned from posting about victim on social media, court rules
Stephen Rozniakowski pleaded guilty and during his sentencing in November 2017, he was told by a county judge to never contact Valerie Morrow's family in any possible way.
A former police officer in Pennsylvania, who killed his former girlfriend and injured her 15-year-old daughter, reportedly had his rights violated when he was ordered to remove a post about the victim on Facebook after the incident, a state Superior Court panel has ruled.
The convict, Stephen Rozniakowski, a former officer with the Colwyn Borough Police Department, shot and killed Valerie Morrow at her home in Glenolden in December 2014. Rozniakowski pleaded guilty and during his sentencing in November 2017, he was told by a county judge to never contact Morrow's family in any possible way.
Rozniakowski, on December 15, 2014, broke into Morrow's house and shot her dead before shooting her teenage daughter, Bridgette Cruz, in the bicep. The teen fled the room and survived.
However, Rozniakowski, in February 2018, posted a picture of himself with the victim on Facebook with the caption: "Forever in my heart."
Shortly after this, the District Attorney's office petitioned the county court to forbid Rozniakowski from using social media for any direct or indirect contact with Morrow's family. The office also asked for the post to be taken down, according to PennLive.
The DA, however, served notice of the petition to the convict's murder trial defense lawyer, who no longer represented him. The killer, therefore, was not aware of the petition and did not attend the hearing where the DA's motion was approved by a county judge.
Rozniakowski, in response, launched an appeal, arguing that his constitutional right to due process of law had been violated, the outlet reported.
President Judge Emeritus John Bender subsequently ruled that Rozniakowski was right because he did not have the chance to contest the petition brought forward by the DA. The judge said that the sentencing judge's order for the convict to refrain from contacting the victim's family "does not unequivocally encompass the social media post that triggered the commonwealth's filing of the petition in this case."
"Before the court could curtail (Rozniakowski's) freedom of speech by ordering him to remove that post, and precluding him from making any other similar posts in the future, (Rozniakowski) was entitled to notice of the petition, the opportunity to be heard, and the chance to defend himself," Bender added.
Reports state that the case will be in contest again at the Delaware County Court.
Rozniakowski is currently serving a life-plus-20-year prison term.