Attorney A. Charles Peruto rested his case yesterday on behalf of W. A. (Tony) Boyle without calling the former United Mine Workers president to testify in his own defense against charges that he ordered the assassination of his union rival.
The defense concluded instead with Robert Tanner, a slight, gaunt, smalltime burglar from Cleveland who testified that he was approached to kill Joseph (Jock) Yablonski several months before Boyle was supposed to have given the order on June 23, 1969.
Delaware County Judge Francis J. Catania told the jurors that after hearing closing arguments and his own charge to them, they probably could begin deliberating late today.
The case that these jurors will receive is a study in constrast to the case that the jury considered four years ago. (Boyle won a new triak a year when the Pennsylavania Surpeme Court set aside the 1974 guilty verdict on grounds of judicial error.)
At no time were these differences more evident than one day last week when 14 retired coal miners from the hills of Kentucky and Tennesse shuffled to the witness stand to testify for the prosecution just as they did four years ago.
Some wearing blue denim bib overalls, the miners again told how they unwittingly passed along money that eventually was paid to the hired killers. Yablonski, his wife and daughter were slain on Dec. 31, 1969, in their Clarksville, Pt., home.
Looking older than their years, hard of hearing and occasionally unable to hold back the hacking coughs that accompany black lung disease, the UMW pensioners, said they were just following the instructions of their union officers because they feared, losing their union pensions.
At the first trial, Boyle's lawyer, Charles Moses, dealt with the pensioners gently and they came across more the victims than the perpetrators.
But that's not the way Peruto has played it, this week.
First, Peruto confronted the miners with the fact that they had lied tenaciously to the FBI and grand jury for two years before some began to confess in 1972.
"Tell me," Peruto asked one, "Did (the prosecutors) tell you to wear overalls to the trial?" The miner appeared confused and answered in a thick Appalachian accent, "No, I always wear overalls." To another, Peruto asked if his overalls were new. To a third, he said, "By the wy, was there a sale on overalls before you came up here?"
Boyle's first lawyer, Moses, a dignified, silver-haired attorney who was a Boyle family friend from Billings, Mont., was not a man to aim for the jugular. But then again, his client was found guilty on three counts of murder.
Four years ago, special prosecutor Richard A. Sprague had going for him the momentum of seven successful prosecutions in the Yablonski case. He took control of the first Boyle trial from the moment it began and Moses never came close to wrestling the jury's attention away from him.
This time with the momentum fairly dissipated, Peruto moved at once in his opening remarks to diminish and even ridicule Sprague's reputation as a crusader in the Yablonski case.
Expressing outrage that conspirators in the murder plot were promised reductions in punishment for cooperating with Sprague, Peruto said that Sprague would make "deals with vultures [the very word Sprague had used in his opening statement to characterize the killers] - anything to go further up the lines to get this man."
Aside from Peruto's entry into the case, there are other reasons why this trial is so different from the first.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision granting Boyle a new trial found that Delaware County Judge Francis J. Catania had erred when he refused to allow the defense to present testimony about the financial dealings of the UMW's District 19, Tennessee. The decision has given the defense much greater latitude in presenting a case that Albert Pass, former secretary-treasurer of District 19, actually ordered Yablonski killed because Yablonski was calling fro investigations of District 19's finances.
Pass is an important new element. He did not testify in the first trial when he was still insisting on his innocence. He confessed last August, only when his legal appeals were exhausted. At first, he seemed to be the prosecution's best witness. With a rough-hewn cockiness, he stuck firmly to his richly detailed account of how Boyle initiated the murder plot as June 12, 1969. But Peruto grilled him for nine hours, attacking his motives and scoring some points in an attempt to poke holes in his story.