HARRISBURG -- Pennsylvania remains scheduled to put an inmate to death this evening for the first time since 1999 after the state Board of Pardons rejected a bid for clemency.
Unless the courts intervene -- or the board reconsiders its unanimous vote against recommending the governor grant life in prison -- the state is scheduled to execute Hubert L. Michael Jr., 56, for murdering 16-year-old Trista Eng after kidnapping her in York County in the summer of 1993.
Trista was walking to her summer job at a restaurant in Dillsburg, York County, when Michael stopped and offered her a ride, according to the governor's office. Instead, Michael drove her to state game lands in the county, where he shot her three times with a handgun and then hid her body in the woods.
He later explained the murder by saying he had been under pressure from an unrelated rape charge, the office said.
In a hearing Wednesday before the state Board of Pardons, an attorney for Michael argued her client deserves clemency because he is impaired by Asperger's syndrome and is deeply remorseful for his actions. A clinical social worker and forensic psychologist testified that the disorder affects how Michael forms relationships and makes choices.
A number of Trista's friends and relatives, including her mother, brother and sister, spoke against clemency. Suzanne Eng, Trista's mother, told the board that memories of her child have stayed with her throughout years of special occasions and ordinary days.
"I was told he tied her up, covered her head and, as she begged him not to kill her, he shot her three times," Ms. Eng said. "Can you imagine that? Can you imagine that happening to you? Now picture it happening to a 16-year-old."
The speakers described a loyal friend and sister who nicknamed herself "Trista the Great."
"My heart aches for her every single day," said Morgan Eng, her brother.
The four board members participating in the case voted against clemency. State Attorney General Linda Kelly had recused herself. Separate attempts to stop the execution continue in court.
In late September, the state came within days of a scheduled execution when a Philadelphia judge ordered a stay.
Separately, a federal judge ruled the Department of Corrections cannot prevent media witnesses from watching and hearing the execution scheduled for this evening at the state execution complex in Centre County. The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Patriot-News of Harrisburg had filed suit challenging a protocol that calls for a curtain to be closed during parts of the execution.
Karen Langley: email@example.com or 1-717-787-2141.