Shonda Walter Removed From Death Row, Sentence Thrown Out

Shonda Walter death row

Shonda Walter is no longer on death row after a judge has deemed she received inadequate representation during her trial. In 2003, Walter was sentenced to death for the brutal murder of her neighbor, James Sementelli.

Walter left more than 60 wounds on Sementelli’s neck and head using a hatchet. The Pennsylvania woman killed the 83-year-old veteran of the Pearl Harbor attack to steal his car and pay off court debts and to become a street gang member.

Despite the severity of the crime, Clinton County Senior Judge Michael Williamson came to the conclusion that Walter was unfairly represented in court. Court documents showed:

“{Before trial, Walter had rejected a plea agreement that would have avoided the possibility of the death penalty. A jury took less than 30 minutes to convict her of first-degree murder. In her appeal, Walter argued that her trial lawyer openly conceded her guilt and filed an appeal that one judge described as unintelligible. She had sought a new lawyer but was rejected.”

Now that Walter’s sentence has been tossed, Michelle Tharp might become the only woman on Pennsylvania’s death row, according to the state Department of Correction. Tharp, 47, was awaiting death after being sentenced in 2000 in Washington County following her conviction for starving her 7-year-old daughter to death. However, her death sentence was tossed in 2014, and she is awaiting resentencing.

She is imprisoned in the State Correctional Institution Muncy in Lycoming County. 176 men are on death row, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. However, none of them will be executed soon.

In 2015, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf announced a temporary moratorium on executions. Wolf said he is calling to hold off all executions because the state’s capital punishment system is “error prone and expensive.”