HARRISBURG (KDKA) – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the prosecution in the case of convicted mass murderer Richard Baumhammers.
But the long process of death penalty appeals is something that Allegheny County District Attorney Steve Zappala thinks the legislature should tackle.
“I think the legislature should take a look at this, take a look at this issue about the death penalty, and if they’re not going to execute people then maybe they should re-evaluate,” he said.
Zappala’s challenge to the legislature comes as the state Supreme Court ruled that Baumhammers should not get a new penalty hearing and his convictions for killing five people in a rampage from April of 2000 will stand.
One of the victims, Sandip Patel, was paralyzed and died seven years later.
Among the issues raised at a challenge to his death sentence: the testimony of Dr. Michael Welner, who told the jury at trial that Baumhammers was not schizophrenic but told media outlets years later that he was schizophrenic. The prosecution argued the doctor misspoke.
Still the appeals are not finished.
“We haven’t executed anybody in Pennsylvania for a long, long time,” says Zappala. “And it’s sad in the sense that we’re at a stage were at the Supreme Court, then there will be more appeals. There will be collateral appeals into the federal system, and families that survive this; I don’t know that they’re ever going to find closure.”
But Zappala is pursuing the death penalty in the case of Allen Wade, accused in the deaths of two sisters, Sarah and Susan Wolfe in East Liberty.
How does he reconcile that decision?
“Because as a prosecutor, I have an obligation to apply the law as it’s presented to me,” he said.
Baumhammers next appeal goes to federal court.