Lehigh Valley

U.S. Supreme Court tosses Michael Ballard appeal

Killer's lawyer must explain why it was filed

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court has denied an appeal filed on behalf of convicted mass killer Michael Ballard and ruled that Ballard's lawyer must explain why he filed that appeal without Ballard's knowledge.

The nation's top court issued its ruling Monday.

Ballard had told the court he wanted his death sentence appeal retracted.

"I am pleased that the appeal has been rejected," said Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli.

"And I am pleased the U.S. Supreme Court wants to know how a lawyer can allege he has filed a petition at the request of a client when the client says that is not so."

Marc Bookman, executive director of the Philadelphia-based Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, filed papers asking the highest court to hear the case.

Bookman's appeal questioned the legality of the Pennsylvania death penalty, saying it is unconstitutional because it doesn't mandate that '"on-statutory mitigating factors" be included on the verdict slip that's given to the jury.

The Supreme Court is giving Bookman 40 days to explain his actions.

In 2011, Ballard pleaded guilty to killing four people inside a home in the borough of Northampton in June 2010.

Ballard was given four death sentences, one for each victim: his ex-girlfriend, Denise Mehri; her father, Dennis Marsh; and her grandfather, Alvin Marsh at their home in Northampton. Ballard also killed neighbor Steven Zernhelt, who heard cries and came over to help.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal in November 2013. That court said the sentences were supported by overwhelming evidence against Ballard.

A federal appeal was filed in May, but Ballard says he didn't authorize attorneys to file the paperwork on his behalf.



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