February 3, 2020 – Convicted murderer Michael (Cleveland Mike) Duncan was granted a new trial last week by the Pennsylvania Superior Court for a 2003 gangland slaying committed near Pittsburgh. The 43-year old Duncan hails from Cleveland but moved to the Pittsburgh area in the early 2000s and went to work for local drug boss John (The Judge) Bronson.

In 2012, Duncan and Bronson were found guilty by a jury at trial of murdering Johnny Newman, another employee of the organization who they found out was cooperating with police. Newman was shot to death inside his car, parked on the street outside his California, Pennsylvania home, on the evening of February 3, 2003. His wife and daughter discovered his dead body slumped behind the wheel of the vehicle at around 7:00 am the next morning. California, PA is 35 miles south of the Pittsburgh border.

The higher court ruled that Duncan’s attorney should have informed the jury of the fact that one of the main witnesses against him received an immunity deal from prosecutors and failing to do so deprived him of adequate defense counsel. Bronson, 63, sold marijuana and prescription pills in bulk.

While unsuccessfully trying to negotiate his own cooperation deal with police, Bronson discovered Newman had been informing on him. Bronson is alleged to have given Duncan the murder contract after a different employee of his declined it at a price of $10,000. According to testimony at his first trial, Duncan bragged of his role as the triggerman in the hit to more than one person and admitted to police that he worried of doing prison time for the homicide because anybody viewing the crime scene would realize it “wasn’t self defense.”

Duncan had a number of drug-related arrests prior to being indicted in Newman’s murder in January 2011. He requested payment for the job in the days after Newman was killed by contacting Bronson’s reputed No. 2 man, Howard (Word) Irwin and then fled with contents of a safe back to Ohio, where he stayed until he was finally indicted by prosecutors in Washington County, Pennsylvania almost a decade later. Irwin, 49, pleaded guilty to providing false information to investigators in return for the homicide and conspiracy counts getting dropped.

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