HARRISBURG Press Release, March 16 – State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Delaware/Montgomery) announced at a Capitol press conference today that he has introduced legislation that would repeal the use of capital punishment in Pennsylvania.
The bill, which is currently circulating for co-sponsorship, would eliminate the option of capital punishment during criminal sentencing. Instead, the legislation would only allow for a maximum sentence of life in prison.
“It’s important to remember that the death penalty is a state program which, like all other programs, we must continually re-evaluate,” Leach said. “Is it cost effective? Is it reliable? Does it accomplish its intended goals? The answer to each of these questions is no, and it is time for Pennsylvania to eliminate this costly and ineffective practice.”
Speakers at the press conference included Leach; Ashlee Shelton, Executive Director of Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty; Rev. Walt Everett; and Ray Krone, a former death row inmate who was later proven innocent and exonerated from the crimes for which he was charged. Krone is now an advocate for the abolition of the death penalty.
The press conference coincided with a lobby day put together by the nonprofit organization Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Over forty advocates visited Harrisburg to meet with state legislators regarding the death penalty and to urge the suspension of executions until a thorough study of the capital punishment system can be conducted.
Shelton noted that the American Bar Association of Pennsylvania reported in 2007 that Pennsylvania’s capital punishment system is racially and economically biased and runs the risk of executing innocent people. She added that the mission of Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is to abolish the death penalty completely.
“Philosophical beliefs about the death penalty aside, we must recognize the deadly risks involved with allowing a flawed system to exist and tackle this issue on a public policy level. We are here today to ask that both chambers commit to studying the system thoroughly so that we can move forward in a unified way once the findings are revealed,” Shelton said.
An editorial by The Patriot News noted that Pennsylvania, which has the 4th-highest number of death row inmates in the U.S., could save money by doing away with the death penalty. “Some studies say the price tag is as much as $2 million more for a prosecutor to put someone on death row than it would be to send someone to prison for life,” the article stated.
In addition, the Philadelphia-based American Law Institute recently argued against the death penalty, and said that it is impossible to administer the death penalty fairly and is a practice that should no longer be used.