On death row for 17 years for one of the most brutal mass murders in York County history, Paul Gamboa-Taylor is back in county court seeking a new trial.
Gamboa-Taylor, now 48, pleaded guilty in 1992 to five counts of murder and received four death sentences and one life sentence for the 1991 slayings of five family members.
He was sentenced to life for the bludgeoning death of his mother-in-law, 42-year-old Donna Barshinger, and was sentenced to the death penalty for the hammer slayings of Barshinger's 2-year-old son, Lance; his wife, Valerie Gamboa-Taylor, 23; and their two children, Paul, 4, and Jasmine, 2.
Appeal attorneys for Gamboa-Taylor allege that his trial counsel, Chief Public Defender R. Bruce Evanick, had represented Donna Barshinger's husband in a previous legal matter and therefore had an undisclosed conflict of interest.
According to court records, after the murders and a suicide attempt, Gamboa-Taylor made a full confession to York City Police. Evanick successfully had that statement barred from trial. From prison, Gamboa-Taylor then reportedly wrote a second confession to police.
In January 1992, Gamboa-Taylor appeared before Judge John H. Chronister and pleaded guilty to five counts of criminal homicide. In a degree of guilt hearing, Chronister determined all five homicides were first-degree murders.
After Gamboa-Taylor ordered Evanick not to raise any mitigating circumstances, Chronister handed down the death penalties.
Gamboa-Taylor's attorneys, members of the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Public Defenders Office in Philadelphia, argued Monday before Chronister that Evanick, who died in December 2007, failed to have Gamboa-Taylor properly evaluated for competency or advise the court of his abusive childhood before sentencing.
Federal Public Defender Matthew Lawry argued that Gamboa-Taylor was not competent at the time he waived his rights before Chronister.
Lawry called Dr. Gillian Blair, a psychologist who examined Gamboa-Taylor in 1998, six years after he was deemed competent for trial, who said Monday that doctors in 1992 were wrong.
Blair said those doctors' notes reflected, among other mental health issues, that Gamboa-Taylor suffered from auditory hallucinations, had suicidal ideations and thought he was "possessed by the devil."
"Based on that information, I do not believe I would have found him competent," she said.
Gamboa-Taylor's hearing is scheduled to continue today.