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  1. #1

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    Michelle Sue Tharp - Pennsylvania Death Row


    Tausha Lee Lanham





    Michelle Sue Tharp


    Facts of the Crime:

    Tharp, after being convicted of starving her seven-year-old daughter Tausha Lee Lanham to death in April 1998, was sentenced to death in Washington County on November 14, 2000. The jury was supplied with haunting evidence—pictures of a gaunt Tausha after her body was disposed of in a bush along a West Virginia dirt path.

  2. #2
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    August 16, 2005

    Mom who starved child seeks stay of execution

    A federal public defender filed a petition Wednesday in Pittsburgh seeking to stay the scheduled Oct. 21 execution of Michelle Sue Tharp, the Washington County woman convicted in the 1998 starvation death of her 7 1/2-year-old daughter.
    The Defender Association of Philadelphia filed the action in U.S. District Court on behalf of Tharp, 35. Gov. Ed Rendell signed the execution warrant on Monday.

    Attorney James J. McHugh, a federal public defender, asked the court to permit Tharp within 180 days of the stay to file a motion to begin her federal appeal aimed at overturning her conviction and death sentence.

    Tharp was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Tausha Lee Lanham, who weighed less than 12 pounds when she died in April 1998.
    Tharp's boyfriend, Douglas Bittinger, is serving a 15- to 30-year sentence in connection with the death.

    After the child died in the family's home in Burgettstown, Tharp and Bittinger dumped the body in West Virginia and told authorities the girl had disappeared while the family was shopping in Steubenville, Ohio.

    Tharp's conviction and death sentence were affirmed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on July 2, 2003, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused on May 17 to review the case.

    McHugh said the appeal to the state Supreme Court is automatic in death penalty cases, and the association tried for a U.S. Supreme Court review before starting the federal appeal process.

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  3. #3
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    November 12, 2009

    Woman who starved daughter appeals death sentence

    A woman awaiting the death penalty for starving her 7-year-old daughter in 1998 will have an appeal hearing next month.

    But Washington County Judge Paul Pozonsky must first decide whether to recuse himself before the Dec. 14 hearing.

    That's because attorneys for 40-year-old Michelle Tharp don't think the judge can be fair. Among other things, they note the judge played a sad country western song about an abused child moments before he imposed the death penalty in November 2000.

    Ms. Tharp killed Tausha Lee Lanham, who weighed less than 12 pounds at death.

    Authorities say the child's body was dumped in West Virginia by Ms. Tharp and her boyfriend, who is serving a 15- to 30-year sentence. The couple then pretended the girl was abducted at an Ohio shopping mall.

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  4. #4
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    January 20, 2010

    Tharp looking to get off death row

    Attorneys for Michele Tharp will receive some of the information they claim will prove that prosecutors acted wrongfully to convict her of starving to death her 7-year-old daughter in 1998.

    But, at the same time, they are not entitled to other information that they say is "highly relevant" in substantiating their claims that could result in Tharp's death-penalty conviction being overturned.

    Washington County Judge Paul Pozonsky has ordered District Attorney Steve Toprani to turn over any written correspondence regarding possible plea offers to Dena Chandler, Juniata Linley, Renee Vogel Sims and Tharp's ex-boyfriend, Doug Bittinger, or their attorneys. The four testified against Tharp at her trial.

    The task may prove difficult as Tharp was prosecuted by former District Attorney John C. Pettit.

    Tharp's attorneys claim that Pettit made offers to the four in exchange for their testimony.

    Toprani, however, won't have to provide other information, including documents and case numbers, concerning possible cooperation between prosecutors and the four people.

    Pozonsky presided over Tharp's trial, which resulted in a jury convicting her of first-degree murder for deliberately starving her daughter, Tausha Lee Lanham, who weighed less than 12 pounds at the time of her death.

    Tharp and Bittinger were charged in Tausha's death a few days after they falsely reported that the child had been abducted from a mall in Steubenville, Ohio, on April 18, 1998. The couple had dumped the child's body along a road in Follansbee, W.Va.

    Bittinger was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to criminal homicide, endangering the welfare of a child and abuse of a corpse. Prosecutors said Bittinger's crime was not preventing the abuse by his girlfriend.

    The judge also denied Tharp's requests for statements made by anyone to all law enforcement officials involved in the case. He also rejected Tharp's requests for all reports, memoranda and other documents stemming from the murder investigation.

    Tharp is scheduled to make an appearance in Washington County Court on Feb. 16 for a Post-Conviction Relief Act hearing before Pozonsky, who shot down an earlier request by Tharp that he step aside from her case because she claims he is prejudiced against her.

    Tharp's attorneys asked the judge to recuse himself from the appeal because he played a country song about a neglected girl born into a house filled with domestic abuse prior to sentencing Tharp to be executed for her crime.

    A death warrant was signed by Gov. Ed Rendell in 2004, but Tharp's execution was stayed in federal court pending further appeals even though the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear her request for a new trial.

    The stay of execution will remain in place indefinitely as Tharp continues her appeal process.

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  5. #5
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    April 27, 2010

    Killer claims wrongful conviction

    Attorneys for Michelle Tharp on Monday began presenting evidence that they believe will prove that the woman was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for starving her 7-year-old daughter to death in 1998.

    Assistant federal defender Jim McHugh, along with five other attorneys from the Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, converged on the Washington County Courthouse early Monday pushing boxes of documents on dollies into Judge Paul Pozonsky's courtroom.

    The entourage's aim is to have Tharp's trial or sentence overturned because of mitigating circumstances that were not presented to the jury at trial. Those issues include psychological evidence that the 41-year-old Tharp is mentally unstable because of her low IQ and traumatic upbringing, and that former District Attorney John C. Pettit cut deals with people, including Tharp's ex-boyfriend, Doug Bittinger, for false testimony that led to her conviction.

    On the first of a two-day court proceeding, psychologist Michael Moran testified that he performed a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation of Tharp that found her to have an IQ of 71, which is considered borderline mental retardation. Despite her low IQ, Moran said he found Tharp competent to stand trial, although she had impaired logical thinking and analytical skills.

    Moran, who was not called to testify at trial, said Tharp suffers from several other mental disorders that would have been considered mitigating evidence under Pennsylvania death sentence statute. Under that statute, prosecutors cannot seek the death penalty against someone who meets the criteria for being mentally retarded.

    "She is very seriously dysfunctional," Moran said.

    In addition, Moran said Tharp's abusive childhood should have had a more substantial role in deciding her fate.

    Also to testify was Washington County public defender Glen Alterio, who defended Tharp at trial. He was questioned by McHugh on his defense strategy at the time, including information that could have damaged testimony presented by Bittinger.

    Tharp's attorneys contend that Bittinger falsely testified to be given a plea deal to third-degree murder.

    Tharp and Bittinger were both charged with first-degree murder in the starvation death of Tharp's daughter, Tausha Lee Lanham, who weighed less than 12 pounds at the time of her death.

    The couple were charged a few days after they falsely reported that the child had been abducted from a mall in Steubenville, Ohio, on April 18, 1998. The couple had dumped the child's body along a road in Follansbee, W.Va.

    After Tharp's trial, Bittinger was sentenced on the lesser charge to 15 to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to criminal homicide, endangering the welfare of a child and abuse of a corpse. Prosecutors said Bittinger's crime was not preventing the abuse by his girlfriend.

    At trial, Bittinger testified to Tharp being a poor and abusive mother to her daughter, refusing to feed her or take her to the doctor.

    Alterio said he was unaware of any deal between Pettit and Bittinger or he would have used the information at trial. He said he would have also used additional information pertaining to Bittinger, including a psychological evaluation and letters that Bittinger wrote to Tharp claiming that neither of them had done anything wrong.

    Tharp's attorneys are also questioning deals that Pettit allegedly made with Dena Chandler, Juniata Linley and Renee Vogel Sims for testimony against Tharp.

    A death warrant was signed by Gov. Ed Rendell in 2004, but Tharp's execution was stayed in federal court pending further appeals, even though the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear her request for a new trial.

    The stay of execution will remain in place indefinitely as Tharp continues her appeal process.

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  6. #6
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    April 27, 2010

    Woman On Death Row Wants Sentence Overturned

    A woman on death row is trying to have her sentence overturned.

    Michelle Tharp, 41, was convicted of starving her 7-year-old daughter Tausha Lanham to death in 1998 in Washington County.

    At trial, Lanham's grandmother, Margaret Lanham, talked about her loss.

    "After my son left the house, then this is when she started getting skinnier and skinnier and we weren't allowed to see her," she said in November of 2000.

    The defendant's family testified Tuesday that Michelle was the victim of abuse.

    Her uncle, Robert Tharp, testified that most of her relationships were with men who abused alcohol and drugs. He says Michelle was also abused.

    Robert Tharp also said he was never called on to testify in the penalty phase of her trial.

    Mike Fagella, the prosecutor, was not impressed.

    "One of the claims eligible for relief is that the counsel was ineffective either on the guilt phase or the sentencing phase and a lot of this had to do with alleged claims of effectiveness of the prior defense counsel," Fagella said.

    The hearing will resume in June.

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  7. #7
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    Judge Nixes Pa. Mom's Death Row Appeal In Starving

    A judge has rejected the appeal of a western Pennsylvania woman awaiting the death penalty for starving her 7-year-old daughter.

    The Observer-Reporter of Washington, Pa. reports Thursday that Washington County Judge Paul Pozonsky rejected 42-year-old Michelle Tharp's claims that she didn't receive a fair trial before she was sentenced to death in November 2000.

    Tharp was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1998 death of Tausha Lee Lanham, who weighed less than 12 pounds. Tharp and her boyfriend dumped her body in West Virginia and pretended the girl was abducted from an Ohio shopping mall.

    Tharp claimed her attorney should have presented evidence of her low IQ and traumatic upbringing, and that prosecutors cut a deal with her boyfriend -- who got 15 to 30 years in prison for his role -- in exchange for false testimony.

    http://www.wpxi.com/news/29047937/detail.html

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