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State won't seek death penalty in Blue Ridge Summit man's death

Michael Harrigan reaffirms not-guilty plea during arraignment

August 11, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH
  • Michael Harrigan
Submitted photo,

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- A Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., man reaffirmed his not-guilty plea Wednesday to a charge of criminal homicide in the shooting death of his neighbor.

Michael Harrigan, 29, appeared for formal arraignment on the charge in Franklin County (Pa.) Court.

Harrigan answered "yes" when asked by Judge Douglas Herman if he wanted to continue with the not-guilty plea entered in writing by his attorneys.

Harrigan is charged in the May 27 shooting death of Steven Wetzel, 47, on Blue Ridge Avenue.

Prosecutors said they would not seek the death penalty.

Assistant District Attorney Jeremiah Zook said he talked to Wetzel's family, District Attorney Matthew Fogal and the Washington Township (Pa.) Police Department about the possibility of the death penalty. He said there was "insufficient evidence" of aggravating circumstances that would be required to seek the death penalty.

"The Commonwealth ... in this case will not be seeking the death penalty," Zook said.

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Police said the first officer responding to the neighborhood, near the Mason-Dixon Line in Blue Ridge Summit, saw a man in the roadway and determined he was dead.

In an affidavit of probable cause, police allege Harrigan told them the men were arguing before the early-morning shooting.

Police said they retrieved a shotgun from Harrigan's home.

Herman told Harrigan about possible verdicts from trials before a jury or judge. He explained the differences between first-degree murder, second-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

"Murder requires malice; manslaughter does not," Herman said.

The judge told Zook and defense attorneys James Reed and Scott Rolle that he'd like to schedule a case management conference soon to discuss things like preliminary witness lists, discovery and possible expert witnesses. Harrigan, who is being held in the Franklin County Jail without bail, is next scheduled be in court Oct. 15 for call of the list, a time in which a trial date might be set, a plea changed or a continuance sought.

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