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Death row inmate wants to live

February 12, 2009|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- In November, Michael B. Singley filed a petition with Franklin County Court to end appeals of his death penalty.

The convicted murderer has since changed his mind, and he was in court Thursday asking to withdraw his earlier petition.

"I filed that to be executed because I didn't think I would get any help" in prison, Singley said in a hearing before President Judge Douglas W. Herman. "I just ... felt I wanted to die."

"He doesn't want to die anymore," Assistant District Attorney Laura Kerstetter said after the hearing. "In November, he did. By January, he had filed another petition through his attorneys."

Singley, 32, formerly of Chambersburg, is on death row in the State Correctional Institute in Greene County for the November 1998 murders of Christine Rohrer and James Gilliam. In November, he filed a petition to withdraw his Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition so that he could be executed "by way of Lethal Injection as soon as legally possible."

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In January, however, a motion was filed on his behalf by Helen Marino, a federal assistant defender, to withdraw the November motion, according to court records.

"I asked to withdraw my (PCRA) petition and be executed because I was very anxious and had trouble thinking clearly," Singley stated in the January motion. "I have now talked to my family, my pastor and my lawyers and do not want to withdraw my petition and be executed."

"My mental and physical conditions, and the problems and stress my family have been put through over the years as a result of my being on death row made me more confused and even more depressed," Singley stated in the motion to reinstate his appeals.

Singley said much of the same thing during the 26-minute hearing Thursday.

"I changed my mind because I was hoping to get some medical treatment, mental health treatment that I haven't been getting out at Greene," Singley said. He told the court he is still not receiving any treatment.

At the time he petitioned the court to end his appeals, Singley said he was "very depressed ... My mind was very cloudy."

Herman allowed Singley to proceed with his motion to reinstate his PCRA petition and continue his appeals. The judge also gave the district attorney's office 90 days to file its answer to Singley's petition, Kerstetter said.

In 2000, Singley pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and rape in the death of Rohrer, 23, and entered a guilty plea to the murder of her Elder Street neighbor. Herman later held a degree of guilt hearing for Singley in Gilliam's death, finding him guilty of first-degree murder.

Instead of a jury trial, Singley's case went to a penalty phase before a jury, which sentenced him to death.

Chambersburg Police said Singley went to the home of Travis and Christine Rohrer on the night of Nov. 3, 1998, where he raped and stabbed her. When Travis Rohrer, Singley's cousin, returned home, he was shot and stabbed, but he survived, police said.

As Singley was leaving the Rohrer's home, Gilliam, 39, returned home to the duplex with his girlfriend and was shot in the chest.

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