Pa. high court rejects stay for condemned man
By The Associated Press
Published: Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, 8:08 p.m.
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 lawyers in separate cases to forestall the execution. The state Pardons Board has scheduled a clemency hearing 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 lawyers 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 lawyers are seeking to reopen the murder case. They say he suffers from mental health problems that were exacerbated by life inside State Correctional Institution Graterford near Philadelphia, but that he has gotten better since he was transferred to SCI Greene.
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 5-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 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,” Chief Deputy Attorney General Amy Zapp said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.