Lehigh Valley

Mass murderer to accept fate at hearing?

Mass murderer to accept fate at hearing?

Is he ready to die or will Michael Ballard try to have his death sentenced overturned?

The admitted mass murderer will be back in court Friday to tell a judge if he wants to appeal or accept his fate.

The last death row inmate executed in Pennsylvania was Gary Heidnik in 1999.

He gave up the right to appeal but attorneys against capitol punishment filed appeals on his behalf.

Michael Ballard has also said that he does not want to appeal and now the Northampton County DA wants to be sure that's Ballard's decision.

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli knows the petition hearing against Michael Ballard will be interesting.

"You never know what to expect," said Morganelli.

Morganelli asked the court for the hearing after Ballard wrote a letter to the United States Supreme Court in June saying he didn't want to appeal his conviction anymore and he wanted to die.

"Mr. Ballard has to now inform the judge tomorrow of what he wants to do. And obviously this is a death penalty case, so judge Giordano has to first inquire as to whether Mr. Ballard is still competent to make those decisions," said Morganelli.

Ballard was sentenced to death after the 2010 murders of four people in Northampton Borough.

Ballard pleaded guilty to the crimes but since then a law firm out of Philadelphia assigned themselves as Ballard's legal counsel. That act is something Ballard denies giving them permission to do.

"We still have to battle lawyers who are fighting causes rather than representing clients," said Morganelli.

All of Michael Ballard's appeals have been ruled on in the Commonwealth and U.S. Supreme Courts.

He can still file a post conviction relief act petition and DA Morganelli wants to hear if Michael Ballard plans to do that sooner rather than later.

"I haven't waited for him to decide a year from now. I forced the issue, forced his hand to come into the court and say what he wants to do," said Morganelli.

Legally Ballard has until June 2015 to file his final appeal so as long as his execution date is before then he could appeal up to the last minute.

Governor Corbett hasn't signed Ballard's death warrant yet but he's expected to do so in the next 60 days.

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