The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

State News

November 5, 2012

Pa. Supreme Court rejects stay for condemned man

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday refused to stop the execution of convicted killer Hubert Michael, leaving him with dwindling options three days before he is scheduled to receive a lethal injection.

Justices on the state’s highest court upheld rulings by a York County judge and the state Commonwealth Court on grounds that they lacked the authority to grant a stay.

But two federal judges are weighing motions filed by Michael’s attorneys in separate cases to forestall the execution. Also, the state Pardons Board has scheduled a clemency hearing in the case at the Capitol on Wednesday.

Michael, 56, pleaded guilty to the 1993 shooting death of a teenage girl in York. Unless his execution is stayed, he would be the fourth inmate put to death in Pennsylvania in the last 50 years and the first in 13 years.

The board must unanimously support a clemency petition for it to advance to Gov. Tom Corbett, but the final decision rests with the governor. State Attorney General Linda Kelly, one of the five Pardons Board members, has recused herself from Michael’s case.

One of Michael’s attorneys hung up on an Associated Press reporter who called him for comment Thursday, and another who was in Harrisburg for a U.S. District Court hearing in a class-action case that involves Michael declined to answer any questions.

In one of the federal cases, Michael’s attorneys are seeking to reopen the murder case. They say he suffers from mental-health problems that were exacerbated by life inside Graterford State Prison near Philadelphia, but that he has gotten better since he was transferred to Greene State Prison, in the state’s southwestern corner.

In the class-action case, an expert witness on Monday raised concerns in federal court about how the state carries out its death penalty.

Dr. David Waisel, an anesthesiologist at Children’s Hospital in Boston, testified on behalf of all 200 death row prisoners at a hearing in a five-year-old class-action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s execution protocol.

Waisel questioned the adequacy of the training and experience required of members of the “lethal injection team.” He also said potentially confusing color codes on the drugs could result in a mix-up that unnecessarily causes excruciating pain for the inmate.

Standard colors are used to group similar drugs “to make sure that we are giving at least the drug we want to use or, if not, a drug of the same class,” Waisel said.

The state’s lead attorney suggested that an execution is a unique event that should not be held to the same rules that apply to general medical care.

“It’s not a question of whether we are complying with the standards in a medical setting,” said Chief Deputy Attorney General Amy Zapp.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State News
  • 4-year-old killed by van after dad’s funeral, police say

    Police in southeastern Pennsylvania say a 4-year-old boy was struck and killed by a passing van hours after returning from his father’s funeral.

    April 14, 2014

  • Woman gets 6 to 12 years in infant kidnapping

    A Pittsburgh area woman was sentenced to six to 12 years in prison after she was convicted of kidnapping an infant by luring the mother to a Fayette County motel with a phony story about a commercial photo shoot for disposable diapers.

    April 11, 2014

  • APTOPIX High School Stabbings.jpg Lawyer: Evaluate stabbing suspect’s mental health

    The attorney for a 16-year-old accused of stabbing 21 other students and a security guard at their high school said Thursday he wants to have a mental health expert evaluate the boy and hopes to have the case moved to juvenile court.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obamas send prayers to school stabbing victims

    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are sending their thoughts and prayers to the victims of a stabbing spree at a Pennsylvania high school.

    April 9, 2014

  • High School Stabbings.jpg Stabbing spree at Westmoreland County high school leaves 20 injured

    A 16-year-old armed with two knives went on a stabbing and slashing spree at a high school near Pittsburgh on Wednesday, leaving 20 people injured, including a school police officer who eventually subdued him with the help of an assistant principal, authorities said.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX stabbings.jpg Student flashed 2 knives, injured 20 in Westmoreland County school, police say

    A 16-year-old boy "was flashing two knives around" when he injured 19 students and a school police officer who eventually subdued him with the help of an assistant principal at a high school near Pittsburgh on Wednesday, a police chief said.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Police: Man killed by train was texting

    Police say a man killed by a commuter train in suburban Philadelphia was texting a friend when he was struck while walking on the tracks.

    April 8, 2014

  • Daniel.jpg Investigators seek cause of fire that killed three brothers

    Authorities searched the rubble of a burned-out farm house over the weekend for the cause of a fire that took the lives of three young brothers left home alone while their widowed mother worked the overnight shift at a direct mail company.

    April 7, 2014 2 Photos

  • Wozniak, John Lawmakers want more aid for cities

    Several bills circulating at the Capitol would open improvement zones more quickly or allow smaller cities to participate.
    Sen. John Wozniak, D-Westmont, wants to make the concept available to more cities the size of Johnstown.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • barbour021614.jpg No shows escaped death by Craigslist killer

    The young woman who says she was driven by satanic spirts to commit a cross-country murder spree over the last six years says authorities are not taking her claims seriously and that she tried to lure other central Pennslyvania men into her death snare with online companionship ads but they didn't show up.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories


Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow

House Ads