BREAKING: Governor Wolf Suspends Death Penalty in PA

Filed under: Death Penalty Cases, News by Contributor @ February 13, 2015


This morning, newly-elected Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf temporarily suspended the imposition of the death penalty in the Commonwealth.  This moratorium on executions applies to 186 currently pending death penalty verdicts, as well as any future convictions.  His decision was prompted by the scheduled execution of Terrance Williams, 48, who has been on death row since being convicted of killing a church volunteer in 1984.  Governor Wolf cited the wave of exonerations of death-row inmates in recent years as one of the primary reasons for his decision, but at the same time emphasized that his action was in no way tied to any feelings of sympathy for the inmates or concern over the validity of their individual verdicts.  Governor Wolf also pointed to a pending task force report commissioned by the State Senate a few years back, that is set to be released in the near future.

The District Attorneys Association and the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association  called the decision a “misuse of power” and a worrisome development of the Governor’s own personal beliefs circumventing the duly-enacted law in the state.  Meanwhile, other groups including the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Philadelphia Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput celebrated the decision.

Only three individuals have been executed since the death penalty was reintroduced in Pennsylvania in 1978, and all three individuals asked to be executed.  Thus, regardless of whether Governor Wolf’s decision is legal, and regardless of how one feels about the morality or effectiveness of the death penalty, it simply cannot survive a cost benefit analysis. In my opinion, pursuit of the death penalty has cost Pennsylvanians hundreds of millions of dollars. In return, the only benefit to the taxpayers is that three defendants who asked to be executed were executed (they got their wish). The moratorium is long overdue as it will relieve the state of the financial burden of carrying the significant costs of capital sentencing and appeals.  

The State Troopers Association has already raised an objection and pointed out one significant consequence of the Governor’s decision in the Eric Frein case, where prosecutors have already announced their intent to seek the death penalty against the northeastern PA sniper who allegedly ambushed two state troopers and spent weeks on the lam. A straight moratorium prevents the imposition of the death penalty in all cases – even his.

What do you think of the development?  Comment below.

 

 

 

2 comments:

  1. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT SERVES A PUBLIC GOOD THAT IS BOTH PRACTICAL, ECONOMIC AND, IN SOME DEGREE, MORAL. IT MARKS AN END TO A PROSECUTION THAT IS EASILY UNDERSTOOD. IT IMPOSES THE FULL MEASUFRE OF JUSTICE UPON THOSE WHO HAVE VIOLATED THEIR PERSOJNAL OBLIGATION TO SOCIETY AND THEIR FELLOW CITIZENS OF DECENT BEHAVIOR. IT IS A LEGISLATIVE, BUT NOT RELIGIOUS, STATEMENT OF WHAT KINDS OF CONDUCT ARE TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE. AND IT RELEIVES SOCIETY OF THE FINANCIAL BURDEN OF “MAINTENANCE AND HEALTH” FOR CONVICTED PERSONS WHO HAVE SHOWN THEIR CONTEMPT OF THE SOCIAL STRUCTURE THAT FEEDS THEM. IT TELLS THE FAMILY OF THE VICTIM THAT THE PRICE FOR UNLAWFULLY TAKING A LIFE IS THE LOSS OF THE ASSAILANT’S RIGHT TO PROTECT HIS/HER OWN (WORTHLESS) LIFE.
    THE REAL QUESTION YOU SHOULD ADDRESS IS WHETHER THE BUILT-IN DELAYS IN CARRYING OUT THE PUNISHMENT DIMINISH THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE PUNISHMENT ITSELF.
    THE ARGUMENT THAT A CAPITAL TRIAL IS TOO EXPENSIVE IS A BIT FATUOUS AND MISDIRECTED. THE CRIME IS SERIOUS AND DESERVES SUFFICIENT PUBLIC CONDEMNATION AND RESOURCES TO PROSECUTE. THE ECONOMIC CONCERN, IF VALID, IS THE SAME ARGRUMENT THAT COULD BE USED TO CHALLENGE THE AMOUNT OF MONEY SPENT PROSECUTING SEXUAL ASSAULT, OR PORNOGRAPHY, OR DISCRIMINATION, OR TREASON. IF YOU THINK IT TOO EXPENSIVE, THEN DEAL WITH THE STRUCTURAL PROBLEMS OF THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE RULES THAT MAKE IT SO EXPENSIVE. DUCKING AND RUNNING BECAUSE OF A PERCEIVED COST OF PROSECUTION SOLVES NOTHING.

  2. You have to admit that capital punishment is not a difficult issue to solve – there is no easy and correct solution. If the Courts haven’t been able to fix it in more than 40 years, what makes you think that fix is just around the corner now? Perhaps we just end or streamline appeals and that will fix it? Except then you have to look at the endless stream of exonerations coming through these days ten or more years post-conviction. If we just end or streamline appeals, aren’t we risking killing innocent people? Why do that when it’s cheaper to keep them in jail for life? How do you address the cost-benefit analysis in the system we have, as opposed to the one you wish we had?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *