"Execution could reopen debate in Pennsylvania," is the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report written by Adam Brandolph.
The execution of a murderer scheduled for Thursday — the first in the state in more than a decade if it proceeds — could reinvigorate calls to end the death penalty in Pennsylvania, legal observers said.
“An execution makes (the conversation) more real,” said Judy Ritter, a criminal law professor at Widener Law School. “It’s not just something you read about in the newspaper anymore or in court decisions. ... There are judges and certainly prosecutors who say the death penalty has no meaning because it’s never carried out, that it’s just sort of a remedy that has absolutely nothing to it. If this happens, that will not be the case.”
Unless a court stays the execution or Gov. Tom Corbett grants clemency and reduces the sentence to life in prison, state officials plan to execute Hubert Michael Jr., 56, formerly of Lemoyne in Cumberland County.
Michael is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 7 p.m. at SCI Rockview in Centre County. He pleaded guilty to the July 1993 shooting death of Trista Elizabeth Eng, 16, after kidnapping her in York County.
The Board of Pardons on Wednesday unanimously denied his bid for clemency. If Michael files for reconsideration, there will be a hearing Thursday afternoon. His lawyers also have appealed previous federal court rulings in the case to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
Jeffrey Kirchmeier, a criminal law professor at the City University of New York in Queens, said carrying out an execution will bring it from the abstract to reality in the minds of the public.
“When you hear of a horrible crime, you want some severe swift punishment and that’s a normal reaction. But it’s different than when it actually takes place,” he said. “When it becomes reality, people start debating the cost of the death penalty, whether the procedures are fair, how can we make sure an innocent person isn’t executed ... all these things serve as a practical matter when executions start taking place.”
Pennsylvania reinstated the death penalty in 1976 and has executed three prisoners between then and 1999. All three waived their appeals and asked that their executions be carried out.
"Hubert Michael Jr.'s execution still on for tonight," is by Rick Lee for the York Daily Record.
Lawyers for condemned killer Hubert Michael aren't seeking another clemency hearing for their client, The Associated Press is reporting.
Michael's legal team had until this morning to request for reconsideration of yesterday's unanimous vote by the state Pardons Board not to grant Michael clemency.
Shawn Nolan of the Federal Community Defender Office in Philadelphia confirmed that no request will be filed. York County District Attorney Tom Kearney said he received a call this morning from the secretary of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons advising him that attorneys for Hubert Michael had not filed for reconsideration of the board's denial of clemency by the 9 a.m. deadline.
Earlier Wednesday, U.S. Middle District Court Judge John E. Jones III denied Michael's motion for a stay of execution. Jones did grant Michael a "certificate of appealability" that allowed him to take his cases - his death penalty conviction and a challenge of Pennsylvania's death penalty protocol - to the circuit court.
Attorneys from the Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, who are representing Michael, contend the Supreme Court case and the circuit court's own rules require a stay of execution. If the district court lets you appeal to the circuit court, they argue, case law and court rules state you must get a stay of execution while the court considers your appeal.
Philly Magazine posts, "Why We Shouldn’t Kill Hubert Michael," by Christopher Moraff.
In a popular referendum on election night, the State of California voted by a small margin to keep its death penalty intact; two days later, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is about to put its to use. Barring an unlikely last-minute reprieve, the Keystone State will make history at 7 p.m. tonight when it executes its first inmate in half-a-century who has not made a conscious decision to die by abandoning the appeals process. It’s a milestone that civilized Pennsylvanians should be ashamed to cross.
The inmate in question—56-year-old Hubert Michael—is far from innocent. In 1993, while out on bail on a rape charge, Michael kidnapped a teenaged girl named Trista Eng while she walked to work, drove her to a remote location, and shot her to death. Micheal pleaded guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to die. He initially waived his right to appeal that sentence—a decision his lawyers attributed to mental illness; but since 2004 he has been fighting to stay alive. We owe it to ourselves to grant him his wish.
I say that not from a place of empathy. Michael does not deserve our sympathy, and I’m not suggesting we give it to him. He is a cold-blooded killer who has forfeited his right to count himself as a member of our community. But the case against the death penalty in this country is much larger than one convicted murderer, or even one murder victim.
Earlier coverage of Hubert Michael's case and the Pennsylvania lethal injection challenge begins at the link.