High Court won’t hear Padilla appeal


Padilla

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will not hear the appeal of death row inmate Miguel A. Padilla in his pursuit of funds for a Spanish-speaking investigator to travel to Mexico to gather more evidence in his case.

Blair County Senior Judge Hiram A. Carpenter recently denied a request by Padilla and his defense attorneys for $10,000 so that an investigator could travel to Padilla’s hometown of Colima, Mexico.

Padilla came to the United States as a child with his mother and siblings, who, as testimony in his trial showed, were fleeing a violent home life in Mexico.

The family traveled to California, then to Chambersburg. They ended up living in nearby Gallitzin.

Padilla, however, was living in Altoona on Aug. 28, 2005, when he and friends were denied entry to the UVA Club, an after-hours club on Union Avenue.

He obtained a handgun and murdered the club’s owner, Al Mignogna, doorman Fred Rickabaugh and patron Stephen Heiss.

Padilla was convicted and sentenced to death in 2006, and since then has been appealing his case.

After his initial appeals were rejected by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and a further hearing was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court, the defense filed an appeal with the U.S. District Court in Johnstown.

That appeal, however, has been administratively closed by the Chief Judge of the Western District of Pennsylvania, Mark R. Hornak, pending disposition of further post-conviction appeals filed in Blair County.

The federal judge overseeing the case has ordered the defense and prosecution to file status reports on the Blair County case every six months.

On Tuesday, Assistant Public Defender for the Capital Habeas Unit of the Western District of Pennsylvania, Marshall L. Dayan, filed a status report in which it was noted that Judge Carpenter had denied a request for a Spanish-speaking mitigation specialist to travel to Mexico in an effort to gather information about Padilla’s violent childhood and an alleged sexual assault by an uncle.

Judge Carpenter denied the funding request by the defense because the childhood abuse and violence Padilla experienced was aired during the penalty phase of his Blair County trial.

His mother and brothers provided testimony to the jury about Padilla’s early years, but the jury, despite finding three mitigating circumstances, still sentenced him to death.

Attorney Laurence S. Shtasel of Philadelphia filed a petition for an investigator in an effort to bolster the defense argument that Padilla was under extreme stress at the time of the shooting stemming from the sexual abuse he experienced and the domestic violence he witnessed.

Carpenter concluded that the jury heard from family members who lived with Padilla and knew him best and that the prosecution did not challenge defense claims of a traumatic childhood.

The defense sought to appeal Carpenter’s ruling to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Pennsylvania’s highest court allowed the defense to file an answer to objections by the prosecution, but last week denied the petition for appeal, according to the status report filed Tuesday.

Padilla, 40, presently is an inmate in the State Correctional Institution at Phoenix.



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