Padilla’s appeal rejected

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal that the death penalty imposed on Miguel Padilla of Altoona in 2007 should be overturned because of faulty information presented to a jury during its death-penalty deliberations.

Padilla’s defense attorneys, Marc Bookman and Jules Epstein, both of Philadelphia, in a petition filed March 10 asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling by its Pennsylvania counterpart that upheld the death penalty by a 4-3 vote.

The defense team’s petitions focused on a stipulation agreed to by the prosecution and defense stating that Padilla killed three local men at the United Veterans Administration Club in August 2005 “while in the perpetration of a felony of a person not to possess and/or use a firearm.”

The jury was told this crime was a second-degree felony. It turned out the firearms offense was a misdemeanor.

The defense argued in its petition that “The Commonwealth’s reliance on false and inadmissible evidence violated Mr. Padilla’s constitutional rights to due process.”

The stipulation and its wording were agreed to by attorneys for both sides during Padilla’s 2006 trial in an effort to the avoid telling the jury that Padilla was a Mexican national and not an American citizen.

The jury found that Padilla committed the killings in the perpetration of a felony, that in killing the three men he created grave risk to others and that he committed multiple murders.

Those three aggravating circumstances, the jury found, outweighed of three mitigating factors in the case: that Padilla, 33, was a good father, that he was under extreme mental and emotional disturbance at the time of the killings and that he had made a positive adjustment to prison life.

The prosecution, represented by Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio and First Assistant District Attorney Jackie Bernard, answered the defense claims stating that that jury did find that Padilla had committed a violation of the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act, which is a felony and therefore the death sentence should be upheld.

Consiglio said Tuesday he submitted his brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on May 15.

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued more than 130 orders, one of those being a denial of certiorari to Padilla, which means the nation’s highest court will not hear his appeal.

Consiglio was upset with the defense attempt to overturn the death sentence, contending in his brief that many of the facts the defense included in its petition were misstated.

The defense said that the evidence showed Padilla was suffering from intoxication and diminished mental capacity the night of the killings, but Consiglio retorted in his brief that there was no evidence to justify those comments.

There was testimony during the trial that Padilla was upset over the death of a friend that day.

Consiglio said the process of imposing death is a very long process.

He said Padilla has presented his arguments to reverse the death penalty many times since his trial, and he said despite the U.S. Supreme Court decision, it is likely he will be filing new petitions.

Attorneys representing Padilla could not be reached Tuesday.

Padilla and friends went to the UVA Club on Union Avenue in Altoona in the early morning of Aug. 28, 2005.

When the group was refused entry, Padilla went to his car and retrieved a SIG Sauer P 220 handgun. He had no permit to carry it because of his immigration status.

He returned to the door of the club, killing its owner, Al Mignogna; the club doorman, Fred Rickabaugh; and a patron waiting to get in, Steven Heiss.

He then fled but was arrested later that night by Altoona police.