Judge reconsiders Padilla request

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Gallitzin man sentenced to death in the 2005 murder of three Altoona residents is again asking Blair County Court for money to hire a Spanish-speaking investigator for the pursuit of post-conviction appeals.

Senior Judge Hiram A. Carpenter, who rejected Miguel Padilla’s request a year ago for an investigator at a cost of $10,000, said Monday that he would reconsider his ruling, as requested by defense attorney Laurence Shtasel of Philadelphia.

While Carpenter made no promise of reaching a different conclusion, the judge acknowledged Shtasel’s arguments in pursuit of Padilla’s appeal.

“You have made your points and I will take another look at it,” Carpenter said at the conclusion of oral arguments.

A year ago, Carpenter concluded that the request for a Spanish-speaking investigator was unnecessary because the investigator would be looking for information already revealed during Padilla’s 2006 trial. The judge concluded that the request for hiring an investigator amounted to “a fishing expedition.”

Shtasel disagreed and suggested that without more investigation, he doesn’t have enough information to prepare a post-trial appeal on Padilla’s behalf.

The defense attorney said he needs to know more about Padilla’s childhood, including the poverty Padilla experienced in Mexico and the sexual abuse he endured by an uncle.

During the penalty phase of the 2006 trial, Padilla’s mother spoke of the poverty and sexual abuse.

The mother’s testimony, however, made up 11 lines of a transcript exceeding 200 pages, Shtasel said.

Former District Attorney Richard Consiglio told Carpenter that he should reject Shtasel’s request for a Spanish-speaking investigator who would travel to Mexico and explore Padilla’s childhood experiences.

“All of this was brought out in great detail during the trial,” Consiglio said. “Are we supposed to write a book now?”

Consiglio reminded Carpenter that the jury recognized three mitigating factors when weighing the death penalty for Padilla.

One of the factors, Consiglio said, was that Padilla was under the extreme mental or emotional disturbance at the time of the offenses. Two other factors — Padilla adjusted well to prison and his recognition as a good father — were insufficient to keep the jury from deciding on death as his punishment.

For his ruling issued a year ago rejecting the request for an investigator, Carpenter questioned who the investigator would talk to. He pointed out that Padilla family members had testified during Padilla’s trial about their family life in Mexico before moving to California and later to Pennsylvania.

Shtasel suggested that in Padilla’s native town of Colima, Mexico, the investigator could interview people who knew the Padilla family, in addition to uncles, cousins, teachers and Padilla’s father.

“Without funding, we’re at an unfair disadvantage,” Shtasel told Carpenter on Monday.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.


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