Constitutional Law

Lawyer Convicted, Sentenced to Death in Slaying of 6 Says His Schizophrenia Was Undiagnosed

An unemployed immigration attorney living with his parents in the Pittsburgh suburbs apparently snapped in April 2000, shooting six people he reportedly targeted because of their racial, ethnic or religious backgrounds and his white supremacist views. Five were killed at the time, and a sixth died years later of injuries from the shooting.

Richard Baumhammers, now 46, was convicted of first-degree murder in the slayings and sentenced to death. But he is challenging the sentence in separate state and federal court appeals, contending that he might have been treated more leniently had his schizophrenia been properly diagnosed at the time, WPXI reports.

In a a hearing today in Allegheny County Court, his lawyer, Caroline Roberto, is presenting testimony and arguing to Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning that lawyers representing Baumhammers at trial were ineffective because they didn’t do enough to pursue the issue then, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. He was found to be delusional at that time, rather than schizophrenic.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a page linking to its extensive coverage of the case a decade ago.

A May 2000 article reports that Baumhammers several times visited the Mt. Lebanon office of a Republican state lawmaker, apparently prior to the slayings, complaining that the FBI and, possibly, the CIA were following him because of the legal work he was doing.

A second article that month quotes his lawyers at the time as saying that Baumhammers had a history of mental illness dating back to 1993 and discussing a planned “mental infirmity defense.”

Another article published by the Post-Gazette in April 2000 discusses his legal education and limited practice.

An April 2000 article in the New York Times reported he was licensed to practice law at that time in Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Suspended in Pennsylvania in 2000, he was disbarred last year by the state supreme court. In its opinion (PDF), the court attached a report and recommendation by its disciplinary board.

Saying that the gravity and magnitude of Baumhammer’s crimes “far exceed that which this board has dealt with in the past,” the board concludes that Baumgartner’s conduct “is so reprehensible and outside the norms of societal convention that the only appropriate discipline is disbarment.”

A Georgia Supreme Court opinion (PDF) disbarring him in 2002 says he voluntarily surrendered his law license there.

Related coverage:

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Feb. 2010): “Mass killer Richard Baumhammers’ execution delayed”

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (March 2011): “Attorney rejected for Richard Baumhammers”

WPXI (April 2010): “Baumhammers’ Arresting Officer Shows WPXI Case Photos”

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