A stay has been ordered for the scheduled March 8 execution of Dustin Briggs while a defender's office based in Philadelphia challenges his conviction and sentence.

Briggs was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for shooting Bradford County deputies Christopher Burgert and Michael VanKuren in 2004 on his father's property along Congdon Road, Wells Township.

Briggs shot the two deputies when they confronted him outside his home, according to court records. After Briggs killed the deputies, he fled. A massive manhunt ended about 36 hours later in Dustin Briggs' arrest.

On Jan. 26, 2012, the U. S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued an order staying the execution of Briggs pending disposition of the anticipated petition for writ of habeas corpus, or until further order of the court, according to Janet Kelley, Deputy Director of Communications for Governor's Office of Press and Communications.

Now, the Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, based in Philadelphia, is representing Briggs in federal habeas corpus proceedings as it challenges Briggs' conviction and sentence, according to a spokesperson for the office.

The spokesperson explained that the post-conviction process can involve both state and federal courts.

The Federal Community Defender Office's website has a Capital Habeas Corpus Unit (CHU), which represents death sentenced prisoners in post-conviction proceedings throughout Pennsylvania and in jurisdictions outside of Pennsylvania when appointed by a court, according to its website.

The website notes, "Through a multi-faceted team approach, the CHU provides its clients with the highest level of legal representation with respect to their convictions and death sentences, while priding itself on treating its clients with the dignity and respect that they are due. CHU personnel regularly litigate in federal district court, courts of appeals, and the United States Supreme Court. CHU staff also provide training and consultation to members of the private bar handling capital post-conviction cases."

Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: reviewtroy@thedailyreview.com.