Lehigh Valley

Ballard appeal being considered by state supreme court

Ballard appeal being considered

HARRISBURG, Pa. - An admitted mass murderer wants to get off death row.  The Pennsylvania State Supreme Court is now considering the appeal of Michael Ballard.

He was sentenced to death after pleading guilty to killing four people, but his attorneys are appealing the sentence.

In 2010, police responded to a home on Lincoln Avenue in the borough of Northampton.  What they found was a bloody scene.  Four people were stabbed to death.

Police arrested Michael Ballard, 36, after he crashed a car in Allen Township right after.

According to court documents, when asked what happened, he told investigators "It's obvious.  I just killed everyone."

The dead included Ballard's ex-girlfriend Denise Merhi, 39, her father Dennis Marsh, 62, her grandfather Alvin Marsh, 87, and Steven Zernhelt, 53, a neighbor who came to try to help the family.   

In April of 2011, Ballard pleaded guilty to the murders.  The next month, a jury took less than two hours to hand down his sentence, death.  Four death sentences in total, one for each victim.

Now, Ballard and his attorneys are appealing.  They're citing issues with how the evidence was shown to the jury, how one of their experts was cross-examined, and how the jury determined some mitigating and aggravating factors.

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli says he thinks there is a zero percent chance that the court will rule in Ballard's favor.

But Ballard's attorneys tell 69 News that they submitted a "good faith argument" and it's now up to the State Supreme Court.

For this case, there will be no oral arguments, just briefs submitted by the lawyers that the judges consider.

It will most likely be months before there's a ruling.

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