the possibility that his conviction resulted in a miscarriage of justice and have decided defendant's motion must be refused.
I. The Trial
A. The Government's Case
The government put on the following case against Jerry Polin. At approximately 3:00 a.m. on January 2, 1990, a fire began at the Whitemarsh Plaza Building, 15 East Ridge Pike, Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. Firefighters discovered smoke emanating from a vacant, locked office on the second floor. Breaking down the door, they found a charred, five-gallon, metal Charles Chips container on the floor inside.
Several wires ran through the lid of the can connecting a 24-hour timer, which was plugged into a nearby wall receptacle, to a light fixture inside. Investigators later found inside the can burnt remnants of gasoline-soaked newspaper, two lightbulbs,
a can of brake fluid, two cans of wire dryer (a highly volatile mixture), and several brown, liquid-containing bottles.
According to James D. Powell, an explosives enforcement officer with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, this device (or "bomb") was intended to create "a very large fire." (N.T., 1/24/92, at 16). The building was only saved, Officer Powell opined, because the lid had been left on the can depriving the bomb of sufficient oxygen for combustion. (Id. at 15.)
On the floor near the bomb, Whitemarsh Township Fire Marshal Calvin Bonenberger testified, were "burnt remnants of filters like air filters, and there was one all rumpled up air filter, and . . . remnants of a cardboard box that I secured." (N.T., 1/21/92, at 28).
Jerry Polin's business, a medical claims processing company called Data Med, Ltd., was right next door. More specifically, Data Med's computer room was directly adjacent to the vacant office where the bomb had been set. The government presented one piece of direct evidence linking Polin to the bomb: a palm print found on one light bulb inside the can which matched Jerry Polin's. (See Testimony of Richard Leas, FBI fingerprint specialist, N.T., 1/22/92, at 156-60).
The rest of the government's evidence was circumstantial. Polin admitted he spent time at Data Med the evening of New Year's Day, 1990, approximately nine hours before the bomb was set to ignite. There is some dispute as to whether he was there until 6:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m., but he does not contest that he was in his office at least briefly that evening.
Fire Marshal Bonenberger also testified that in Polin's personal office, he found two air filters which precisely matched the ones whose remnants he found near the device.
Both Bonenberger and Whitemarsh Detective Scott McElree testified that they saw an imprint or impression in Polin's office rug which matched the dimensions of the cardboard box whose remnants Bonenberger had found in the vacant office.
Bonenberger and McElree also opined that two ceiling tiles above Data Med's computer had been moved some time before the fire (presumably, to help the fire spread). (N.T., 1/21/92, at 32; 1/23/92, at 97). They further said they believed that the tiles had been moved from inside Data Med's computer room, and not from the vacant office next door. (N.T., 1/21/92, at 31; 1/23/92, at 97). They concluded that the culprit therefore had access to Data Med's computer room as well as to the vacant office the night of the fire.
John Scharff, a locksmith hired to change the locks at Data Med in November, 1989, testified that Jerry Polin had once told him he knew how to pick locks and that he owned lockpicking tools. (N.T., 1/23/92, at 8, 13). Michael McCurdy, manager of the Whitemarsh Plaza Building in 1989, testified that Polin had once told him exactly the same thing. (Id. at 19-20).
Sheila Devine, to whom Jerry Polin sold Data Med in April, 1990, testified that approximately one week after the fire, Polin described to her in detail the components of the bomb. According to Fire Marshal Bonenberger, this was long before those details were publicly disclosed. Ms. Devine stated:
A. He told me that it had been set to go off at about 3 in the morning on New Year's Day eve, and that it had been set in an empty Charlie Chips can, and into that can was placed numerous brown pharmacy bottles filled with a flammable material. On top of that was placed a naked lightbulb, which was plugged into a timer, which was set to go off at 3 in the morning.