Altoona, Blair County - on Thursday, Hubert Michael's stay allowed him to escape his execution for the third time. The numbers show that Pennsylvania hasn't put anyone to death in 13 years. WTAJ went to see if those in the justice system think the death penalty system is actually working in the state.
Tom Dickey's job is to help convicted killers like Hubert Michael, stay on death row, and out of an execution gurney.
There's a system of court system checks of balances in place and that's what kept Hubert Michael alive.
"You're talking about the ultimate punishment; we kill them today, or kill them two months from now. The court feels better about knowing that they looked at everything."
When someone gets the death penalty, the state Superior Court reviews it automatically. A convict can appeal it all the way through the Supreme Court.
Once a death warrant is signed by the governor, Dickey says lawyers try to stall and stop any way they can, even if it's just a hunch.
"Once that's affected my client, then I know what I need to do, and I have to try to stay, I have to try to stop that death penalty from happening..."
In the Michael case, the Supreme Court says they needed to see if there were legitimate issues to prevent the death penalty.
"For the US Supreme Court to step in and to stay something, there's an issue there."
Dickey says whether you believe the death penalty's working in Pennsylvania, comes down to if you think the death penalty is a deterrent for criminals or not. States like Texas and Florida have the death penalty, and carry it out more frequently than Pennsylvania. same protocol, same number of appeals available. Dickey doesn't know why they move quicker,
but killers might think twice about killing in those states.
"...Some people think, maybe I shouldn't commit crimes in Texas and Florida, because they think I'm going to get the death penalty, and then they'll do it, that's a fair argument..."
Hubert Michael's one of more than 200 inmates on death row in Pennsylvania.
Only three have actually been executed since 1976.