Exclusive: DA responds to judge who pulled death penalty

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala had a short and sweet message for Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Anthony Mariani.

“Judge, he does not have the authority to do that,” said Zappala.

Judge Mariani said in early April he would not consider the death penalty in the upcoming murder trial of Deangelo Zieglar because of a moratorium issued by Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro.

Zieglar is accused of shooting and killing his ex-girlfriend, Rachel Dowden, at a bus stop in Bellevue in Jan. of 2022.

Dowden had a protection from abuse order against Zieglar at the time.  She wrote in the PFA court documents that she was afraid he would find and kill her.

Judge Mariani issued his decision after Governor Shapiro made this remark in February.

“I will not sign any execution warrants as my time as governor of this commonwealth, " said Governor Shapiro.

In the ruling, Judge Mariani wrote, “…this court concludes it is unjust to compel members of the community to endure the grueling and intrusive process…It is unfair to those same citizens to require them to sit through days of presentation of evidence….when it has already been decided by Governor Shapiro that Defendant will not be given the death penalty.”

The District Attorney’s office filed a motion asking the Judge to reconsider, claiming in court documents obtained by Channel 11 that the court overstepped its authority, and arguing that a future Governor may be willing to sign an execution.

Earle: What about his argument that Josh Shapiro has a moratorium on it, and they’re not going to put him to death anyway?

Zappala:  Didn’t Governor Wolf do the same thing?  That doesn’t change the law. I guess the Governor is exercising his legislative prerogative. I can’t enforce the law or not enforce the law based upon some, I don’t know, whatever it is notable, politically or otherwise.”

If the judge does not change his stance, Zappala said he will likely file an appeal.

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