The family of Francis Kirchner, the 30-year-old Fishtown man charged with first-degree murder in the beating death of a man outside of Citizen’s Bank Park in July 2009, said they were hopeful after a judge declared a mistrial last week.
“We are going to face this together as a unit, and obviously we think that Frankie had nothing to do with this and we are going to support him,” said Tara Kirchner, the accused man’s sister and also a Fishtown resident.
Common Pleas Court Judge Shelley Robins New ruled on Tuesday, Sept. 20 that the trial could not continue because one witness offered incriminating evidence that hadn’t been presented to Kirchner’s defense attorney, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
That witness, Ryan Tulino, a friend of the victim, David Sale Jr., identified Kirchner as being responsible for what prosecutors allege was a fatal kick to the head.
Kirchner is the only one of three men charged in Sale’s death facing a first-degree murder charge. His attorney argued that he was not present when Sale was beaten.
Charles Bowers, 37, of Oxford Circle and James Groves, 48, of Kensington, are facing third-degree murder charges that stem from a drunken fight following a July 25, 2009 Phillies game.
The three men were part of a chartered bus trip that left from the now-closed Moe’s Tavern in Fishtown earlier that day.
Sale, of Lansdale, Pa., was with of a separate group that was attending the game as part of a bachelor’s party.
Both groups were ejected from McFadden’s, a bar at the ballpark, and a fight ensued in the parking lot.
Tulino’s surprise testimony added to that of another witness, who also identified Kirchner as being responsible for kicking Sale in the head.
Shortly after declaring a mistrial, New issued a gag order for all parties involved and said she would decide if there would be a new trial after an Oct. 18 hearing. Kirchner’s lawyer opposed another trial on the grounds of double jeopardy — being tried for the same crime twice — according the Inquirer.
Tara Kirchner said her family took the mistrial as a signal that the prosecutors in the case are disorganized and “scrounging around for facts so they can have somebody to blame.”
Still, the Kirchners were hopeful that a trial would prove her brother was not involved in Sale’s death.
“We were hoping that, through the trial, it would show that he is innocent,” said Kirchner. “He’s not the monster that he’s been made out to be.”
Kirchner said that, as a victim of violence personally, she feels empathy for Sale’s family — her fiancé and the father of her son, Kevin Tanczak, was killed following a bar fight in 2006.
Since then, she has worked for number of anti-violence groups, an effort that she said her brother, a milk truck driver, joined in.
According to court records, Kirchner was placed on probation following a 2007 conviction for simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. He has been held at the city’s Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility since July 27, 2009 in connection with Sale’s death, and his sister said last week that they not heard of any plans to release him.
Following her brother’s arrest, Kirchner said her family endured harassment, including death threats, and had to remove their phone number from public listings.
They’re hoping the new trial will set Francis Kirchner — facing a possible life sentence — free and clear his name.
“We just hope a jury will see what we see, and I don’t think we’re blinded by love,” said Kirchner.••
Reporter Brian Rademaekers can be reached at 215 354 3039 or firstname.lastname@example.org.