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Man Who Asked for Death Sentence Decides To Appeal

March 30, 1995

BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) _ A triple murderer who requested the death penalty has changed his mind just days before his scheduled execution.

Attorneys representing Martin Appel say he wasn’t competent to plead guilty to killing three bank employees during a 1986 bank robbery.

``Appel was psychotic and delusional,″ said attorney Rob Dunham of the Pennsylvania Capital Case Resource Center, a federally funded program established to help death row inmates pursue stays of execution.

Resource center attorneys are scheduled to present arguments for a stay of execution today before Northampton County Judge Robert A. Freedberg.

Appel is scheduled to die the week of April 2.

On June 6, 1986, he and Stanley Hertzog walked into the First National Bank of Bath and opened fire, killing three employees and injuring two other people. The men took about $2,200 and were captured at a roadblock several hours later.

Hertzog was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Appel confessed that he had planned the robbery for months and wanted to kill everyone in the bank to eliminate all witnesses.

At his 1986 trial, he waived his right to an attorney, pleaded guilty, asked for the death penalty and was sentenced to the electric chair. Experts ruled that Appel was mentally competent.

He said he wanted the death penalty because of ``the family, friends and relatives of the deceased, along with the general public who cry out for justice.″

``Surely their needs outweigh mine and the few that would like to see me remain alive.″

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said Wednesday he wasn’t surprised Appel changed his mind.

``We always felt that Appel, who never thought that the death penalty would be carried out while Gov. Casey was in office, was full of bravado,″ he said. ``We felt that when it came time to face the piper, he would change his mind.″

Attorneys from the Pennsylvania Capital Case Resource Center contacted Appel early this month, after Gov. Tom Ridge signed the execution warrant. Appel, who hadn’t hired an attorney during his 8 1/2 years in prison, agreed to have the center represent him.

His decision angered former bank manager Marcia Hauser, who was shot three times in the robbery.

``It was established that Martin Appel was competent and sane,″ she said. ``I think his reasons for appeal are because he is chickening out and he is purposely toying with the judicial system.″