Hubert Michael, Junior, who was convicted for the brutal 1993 murder of a 16-year old girl in York County, sat in Rockview State Prison in Centre County last night as his death warrant expired. Last night’s scheduled execution was headed off by a stay issued by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier in the day which was later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court just hours before the death warrant expired at midnight.
Even after the Thursday afternoon stay was issued, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections officials continued to prepare for the execution while the state filed an emergency appeal. Michael was transported to the state prison at Rockview early Thursday morning and became “somewhat emotional” during the trip, according to Corrections officials. Once at Rockview, Michael refused a final meal, met with his attorney and his spiritual advisor, read a newspaper, listened to the radio and waited. He was quiet and polite throughout the day according to Department of Corrections spokesperson Susan McNaughton.
Outside the prison, a small group of protesters braved the chill of a November evening. Kathleen Lucas of the group Pennsylvanians For Alternatives to the Death Penalty said she traveled to Rockview because she opposed the state committing murder in her name. Lucas wants Pennsylvania to abolish the death penalty in favor of life sentences for murder. Another protester, a Penn State freshman, called Hubert Michael a “victim.”
Michael was convicted of the murder of 16-year old Trista Eng of Dillsburg. Prosecutors proved that Michael picked Eng up along the side of a road as she was walking to work in 1993. He took her to a remote area where she was shot three times. Prosecutors said there was also evidence of sexual assault. The body was dumped on state game lands near Dillsburg. The remains were discovered after Michael confessed the killing to his brother. The only motive uncovered involved Michael’s anger at being charged with rape in another unrelated case. He chose Eng at random, according to authorities who investigated the case.
The decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the stay was announced just a few hours before midnight. Until that point, Corrections officials said that the execution could begin as late as 11:59pm. It was originally scheduled for 7:00pm before the stay was issued early in the afternoon.
A new death warrant will have to be issued after the latest round of court battles is fought.