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Pa. inmate seeks appeal as execution plans proceed

| Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, 12:26 a.m.

HARRISBURG — Lawyers for a death row inmate who could be the first person executed in Pennsylvania since 1999 asked a federal judge on Wednesday to reopen the case and stop the plans to put him to death in two weeks.

Hubert Lester Michael Jr. pleaded guilty to the July 1993 murder of 16-year-old Trista Elizabeth Eng, after kidnapping her in northern York County, about a half-hour south of Harrisburg.

Michael, 56, has repeatedly changed his mind about pursuing appeals. His lawyers said he suffers from mental health problems that were aggravated by life inside Graterford State Prison, and have gotten better since he was transferred to Greene State Prison.

“It is clear that Mr. Michael's prior waiver was driven by the interaction of his mental health difficulties with the conditions of his confinement,” his lawyers wrote. “Now that the conditions that so tortured him have eased, he wants to live and litigate.”

They said he feels “profound remorse” for Eng's murder. Messages seeking comment from the defense lawyers, Ronald Travis and Timothy Kane, were not immediately returned on Thursday.

State prison officials plan to put him to death by lethal injection on Nov. 8, and this week contacted news organizations with details about the planned execution at Rockview State Prison.

Only three people have been put to death in Pennsylvania over the past 50 years, and all three of them had voluntarily given up on their appeals.

Michael apparently encountered Eng when he showed up at her house, responding to an advertisement selling a chair.

The York Dispatch reported last month that during a 1997 hearing, his former public defender testified that Michael told him how he later picked up the girl hitchhiking, bound her with electrical cord stolen from her home, raped her and killed her in state game lands near Dillsburg.

He was not charged with rape, although prosecutors suspected it, because of a lack of physical evidence.

Michael confessed to his brother, who located her remains about a month after she disappeared, and called police. She had been shot in the head and chest.

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