Donna moonda

Donna Moonda, whose husband Dr. Gulam Moonda, 65, was shot and killed May 13, 2005, in a roadside murder on the Ohio Turnpike, is shown during a May 17, 2005, interview in her Hermitage home.

The jury in Donna J. Moonda’s capital murder-for-hire trial will be told not to discuss in their deliberations the fact that she did not testify.

U.S. District Court Judge David D. Dowd Jr., Akron, gave Mrs. Moonda, 48, of Hermitage, the option of including language in jury instructions concerning her lack of testimony, or excising it. After consulting with her defense team, she chose to leave it in.

Jurors will be told that Mrs. Moonda was under no obligation to testify, and that they should infer nothing from her not testifying. It is up to the government to prove that Mrs. Moonda committed the crimes she is charged with, but she does not have to prove that she did not commit them, the instructions will say.

Dowd and attorneys completed the jury verdict forms and instructions Monday, which also was the last day of testimony.

Mrs. Moonda has been charged with hiring her lover, Damian R. Bradford, 25, of Beaver County, to kill her husband, Dr. Gulam H. Moonda, 69.

Bradford has pleaded guilty to shooting Dr. Moonda on May 13, 2005, along the Ohio Turnpike in Cuyahoga County.

A federal grand jury charged Mrs. Moonda with interstate stalking, murder for hire and two firearms violations, one firearm violation attached to each of the other charges.

Dowd asked attorneys whether the jury would have to consider the firearms charges if it acquits her of the interstate stalking and murder-for- hire charges. The defense team argued that an acquittal of the stalking and murder-for-hire charges precludes consideration of the others, but prosecutors expressed an opposite opinion.

Dowd sided with prosecutors, saying that the law allows a person to be convicted of the firearms charges even if they are not convicted of the precursor charges.

Mrs. Moonda could be sentenced to the death penalty if she is convicted of the firearms or murder-for-hire charges.

Testimony concluded Monday with two witnesses reiterating their comments from earlier in the trial.

Ohio Highway Patrol Sgt. Joseph Mannion and Ohio Attorney General Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation Forensic Scientist Melissa Zielaskiewicz testified about two black knit hats that were found along the turnpike.

The hats were found near where Dr. Moonda’s wallet and personal effects were found. The gun that likely was used in the shooting also was found in the vicinity.

Bradford testified that he threw the gun and Dr. Moonda’s wallet out the window of his sport utility vehicle along the turnpike after the shooting.

Mannion told the seven-woman, five-man jury he found one of the hats. Ohio Highway Patrol Lt. Judy Neel testified previously that she had found the other hat.

Ms. Zielaskiewicz said she tested both hats for DNA by taking swabs and cutting sections of fabric. She obtained a DNA sample from one of the hats, but it did not match a DNA sample police obtained from Bradford. Ms. Zielaskiewicz said she could not obtain a sufficient DNA sample from the second hat for comparison.

Police have said they did not consider the hats to be evidence when they found them, and testing confirmed the hats had no value because they could not be linked to Bradford.

While police photographed and took measurements to document the locations where the gun, wallet and items from Dr. Moonda’s wallet — including business cards and credit cards — were found, no such measures were taken for the hats.

Police added that they picked up any item they found while walking the median between the eastbound and westbound lanes of travel.

If jurors determine Bradford’s testimony is credible, the discussion of the knit hats is much ado about nothing. He testified he wore a ballcap the night he shot the Shenango Valley urologist.

The defense has aggressively questioned witnesses about the knit hats in an apparent attempt to corroborate the story of Mrs. Moonda, who told police the shooter wore a knit cap.

Under cross examination, Ms. Zielaskiewicz said she could not say that Bradford did not wear either hat. DNA evidence is left behind from bodily fluids, such as sweat, and it is possible someone could wear a hat without leaving behind DNA, she said.

The jury was sent home following the testimony of the two witnesses and will return Thursday for closing arguments, the judge’s instruction and to begin deliberation.

Dowd said he will move Thursday’s in-court proceedings to a larger courtroom in the courthouse to accommodate an expected large crowd.

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