- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A former lawyer convicted of the slayings of five people during a shooting rampage in 2000 that authorities say targeted ethnic minorities is asking a federal court to grant him a new trial.

Richard Baumhammers, 49, once a Mount Lebanon immigration attorney, has been on death row since his conviction on charges in the western Pennsylvania rampage in Pittsburgh and Beaver County.

Prosecutors say he shot a Jewish neighbor to death and set her house on fire, then attacked others at a Chinese restaurant and an Indian grocery, painted racist graffiti, and fired into two synagogues. He was also convicted of wounding a sixth person who was left paralyzed and has since died.

Defense attorneys cited several arguments for appeal in a petition filed Monday, including allegations that prosecutors withheld a psychiatrist’s report until the trial started and that prosecutors flooded the defense with last-minute evidence but the judge rejected a motion to delay the trial.

They also argue that Baumhammers’ trial lawyer was ineffective, specifically for not aggressively challenging a prosecution expert witness who said Baumhammers wasn’t schizophrenic. In addition, they argue that jurors only heard parts of conversation suggesting that Baumhammers was motivated by racial hatred rather than the larger context that they say would have shown he was mentally ill.

The Allegheny County district attorney’s office said prosecutors are preparing a response to the petition.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected Baumhammers’ appeal last spring, and Gov. Tom Corbett in October signed an execution warrant, which triggered an automatic federal appeal.

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