A Pennsylvania district attorney has challenged the authority of two federal public defenders representing a death row inmate who asked Governor Ed Rendell to be executed.
According to the Altoona Mirror,the federal public defenders, Anna Ahronheim and Kirk J. Henderson, were appointed last year to represent William L. Wright III by U.S. District Judge David Cercone of Pittsburgh, who received letters from Wright. Wright was convicted in 2000 of first-degree murder in the shooting death of James Mowery.
In a petition filed in March, the public defenders reported that based on observations and discussions with Wright's relatives and mental health experts, they have reason to believe that Wright is mentally incompetent. It would appear that the public defenders are seeking to challenge Wright's execution pursuant to Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399(1986). In Ford, the Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment prohibited the execution of an insane offender and that the offender had the right to a judicial hearing to determine his competence to be executed.
The Mirror reported, Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio has challenged the post-conviction petition filed on behalf of Wright by the public defenders. The DA suggested that Wright's actions in 2008 and 2009, when he showed no interest in appealing his case and no interest in being represented by federal public defenders indicated his intentions.
After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed Wright's conviction and death penalty sentence in December of 2008, Wright wrote to Governor Ed Rendell and asked to be executed. Rendell signed an execution warrant, setting Wright's execution for September 3, 2009. That order was stayed in July 2009 when the public defenders were appointed.
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