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Attorney told to answer death row inmate's letter

Published June 24. 2014 12:47PM
EASTON, Pa. (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court told a lawyer to respond to an accusation that he acted without the permission of a death row inmate who wants to waive his appeals and be executed. The nation's highest court on Monday declined to review the sentence of Michael Ballard, 40, who pleaded guilty to killing his ex-girlfriend and three others in Northampton in June 2010. Attorney Marc Bookman had asked the court to review a state Supreme Court decision upholding the death sentence. Ballard, however, said in a recent letter to Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli that Bookman was acting without his permission. The typed letter said he learned about the appeal through news reports, and "they are acting against my own wishes to waive my appeals." The U.S. Supreme Court denied Bookman's request and ordered that he respond to Ballard's letter within the next 40 days. Bookman is director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, a nonprofit that provides free consultation to defense teams in Pennsylvania and Delaware capital cases. He told The (Easton) Express-Times ( ) in an email that he wasn't Ballard's attorney and declined further comment. Morganelli said he sent a copy of Ballard's letter to the nation's highest court to ensure that the justices knew Ballard opposed the appeal. He earlier accused federal defenders of representing anti-death penalty causes instead of their clients. Defense attorney James Connell, who has been working on Ballard's local appeals, said that Ballard told him in May that he didn't want his appeal to continue beyond the automatic review before the state's highest court. "He wanted it to end there. He didn't want to go to the federal court," Connell said, adding that his client wanted to be held accountable for his actions. Only three people have been executed in Pennsylvania in recent decades, and all had dropped their appeals. ___ Information from: The (Easton, Pa.) Express-Times,

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