To: The Pennsylvania State House and The Pennsylvania State Senate
Please Support Pennsylvania's Moratorium on Executions
The Joint State Government Commission has convened a bipartisan task force and an advisory committee to conduct a study of capital punishment in this Commonwealth and to report their findings and recommendations.
The governor’s decision to halt executions in Pennsylvania until he can establish that the process is fair and consistent for everyone is the responsible thing to do. No executions should be carried out while there are doubts about the fairness and accuracy of the current death penalty system.
Please support the moratorium on executions until the Joint State Government Commission Task Force completes its comprehensive report on the death penalty.
Why is this important?
* Since 1973, at least 150 men and women, including six in Pennsylvania, have walked off our nation’s death rows after evidence revealed that they were sentenced to die for crimes they did not commit.
* The DNA era has taught us that murder cases are often riddled with problems, including mistaken eyewitnesses, incompetent lawyers, shoddy forensics, jailhouse snitches, and coerced confessions, but DNA alone can’t solve the problem because it isn’t available in most cases.
* About 90% of those persons facing capital charges cannot afford to hire their own attorney. On the national level, poor defendants sentenced to die have been represented by attorneys who were drunk, asleep, or completely inexperienced.
The death penalty is like a lottery of geography, race, and socio-economic status:
* Almost 80% of those executed in the U.S. were convicted of murdering a white person even though people of color are the victims in about half of all homicides.
* Numerous states have found that a large percentage of death sentences
originate from just one county.
* The death penalty is supposed to be reserved for “the worst of the worst” – but many times the most heinous crimes end up with a deal or a life sentence while robberies “gone wrong” or even accomplices are sentenced to die.
The death penalty’s long and complicated process has been harmful to murder victims’ families:
* The death penalty process is longer because a life is on the line. Yet the extra time has delayed justice for victims’ families, sometimes leaving them in limbo for decades wondering if the sentence will be carried out.
* Capital cases are so riddled with errors that the majority of them are reversed at some point – forcing victims’ families to endure one retrial after another.
* The death penalty has split families apart, forcing relatives with different views on capital punishment to engage in a polarizing debate at the time when they need each other most.