2011-01-27 / Local & State

Insanity Defense May Be Sought In Pa. Murder Of 4

EASTON, Pa. (AP) – Attorneys for a man charged with having killed four people in eastern Pennsylvania last summer while on parole for a murder conviction say they may seek an insanity defense at trial or as a reason to argue against the death penalty if he is convicted.

Michael Eric Ballard, 37, is charged with four counts of homicide in the June 26 slayings of his ex- girlfriend, Denise Merhi, 39; her father, Dennis Marsh, 62; her grandfather, Alvin Marsh Jr., 87; and neighbor Steve Zernhelt, 53, who had heard screams and tried to help.

Ballard was on parole on a 15- to 30-year sentence following his conviction in a 1991 murder in Allentown.

Defense attorneys said in a legal filing Friday that a preliminary examination indicates that their client may have an organic brain dysfunction, although further tests such as brain image scanning are needed.

“We’re looking at all possibilities,’’ defense attorney Michael Corriere said. “It’s just a notice that it’s something we’re examining.’’

Return to top