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The US Supreme Court affirmed the stay of execution for Hubert Michael. He will not be executed tonight and his execution warrant will expire. Here is more information on this decision. The PCC will continue to update its website as this story develops in the coming weeks.
The afternoon of Thursday, November 8, the date of scheduled execution, Hubert Michael was granted a stay of execution by the Third Circuit Court. The Attorney General filed an emergency petition to reverse the ruling, but the US Supreme Court upheld the stay.
Attorneys for Hubert Lester Michael, Jr., 56, pleaded his case before the Pennsylvania Board of Pardon on Wednesday November 7 . He was seeking the board’s recommendation to commute his sentence from death to life imprisonment. Four members of the board voted unanimously to reject the petition for clemency (Attorney General Linda Kelly recused herself and was not present). After their unanimous vote, Hubert Michael’s attorneys did not pursue clemency reconsideration.
Michael was sentenced to death for the 1993 shooting of a York teenage girl. If the execution goes forward he will be the first inmate put to death in Pennsylvania in 13 years and the first non-volunteer in 50 years.
Michael’s attorneys brought to light a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism that they say impaired his ability to fully weigh the risks and benefits of his sentencing and appeal options. They argued that he is deeply remorseful and accepts responsibility for his crimes but that his brain disorder should be a mitigating factor in the decision to commute his sentence.
Family members and close friends of the victim, Trista Eng, described the pain they suffered from their terrible loss and their desire to have closure for their loved one. Eng’s mother explained how difficult it has been “to relive Trista’s death at every appeal and every motion filed.”
The Bishops of Pennsylvania sent letters to the Board of Pardons and Governor Tom Corbett urging a commutation of Michael’s sentence to life in prison or a temporary reprieve. The Church is not advocating that Michael go unpunished for his crime; however the Bishops believe punishment should reflect our belief in the inherent human dignity of each person. The modern penal system provides alternatives to taking the lives of guilty persons, alternatives that break the cycle of violence in our society.
Concerned citizens may also contact the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons and Governor Tom Corbett in support of commuting the death sentence to life in prison or a temporary reprieve. Use the Catholic Advocacy Network to send an email to the Board of Pardons and the governor.