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April 30, 2009

PA death row defendant, tired of delays though asserting innocence, asks to be executed

Pennsylvania's death row has over two hundred defendants, but the state has executed only three defendants in the modern era.  As detailed in this local story, one defendant is tired of waiting to leave death row via execution:

An Altoona man on death row has sent a letter to Gov. Ed Rendell asking that his death warrant be signed, thereby carrying out a sentence imposed on him for the 1998 Thanksgiving Day murder of his former girlfriend's husband. William L. Wright III, now 45, was convicted a decade ago of killing James Mowery in his Beale Avenue home....

In 2007, Wright became upset when the state Supreme Court, after years of deliberation, had failed to decide his appeal.  He filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in Johnstown claiming inordinate delay in sentencing.  The state Supreme Court in December dismissed Wright's appeal saying that evidence of his guilt was "overwhelming." 

Wright decided he would file no more appeals at the state level and carried on his fight in the federal court, but now he has dismissed his state appeals attorney and federal public defender, R. Thomas Forr of Altoona, and has said he wants to die.  On April 19, Wright sent a letter to Rendell stating he was writing to expedite the signing of his death warrant "so I can commence the death-penalty execution."...

Rendell spokesman Chuck Ardo said this week that the Office of General Counsel will review the Wright case and recommend to the governor to sign or not sign the warrant.  Ardo said no inmate has been put to death during Rendell's six-plus years in office.  Two inmates who ceased appealing their convictions were put to death under Gov. Tom Ridge....

Wright concluded his letter to the governor stating, "For what it's worth, I sincerely regret that the responsibility now falls on you to execute an innocent man.  Thus, I would appreciate your prompt and speedy attention in this matter."

April 30, 2009 at 10:16 PM | Permalink


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If the death penalty is cruel, why not let defendants choose between it and life without parole?

I believe it is far kinder than life in prison, and would choose death. I would volunteer to have the CIA insert me, and a tractor trailer full of military explosives into a mullah convention in one of those dreadful countries. It is a great and glorious way to go, in the service of our nation. It beats the way 90% of us will go, slow, painful, with humiliating loss of function upsetting the kids and the dog.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 30, 2009 10:50:01 PM

Although I am against the death penalty - given my opinion that it is plagued with issues that ultimately prevent each defendant a fair, just, and consistent process in the criminal justice system - this particular post raises some provocative questions. Although this convicted offender has maintained his innocence, he has not prevailed on any of his appeals and appears to be forgoing any additional claims. Although many individuals sentenced to the death penalty may be thankful for the protracted length of time until execution, Mr. Wright seems to be accepting the sentence handed down to him and seeking finality on it. I think there is merit in the argument that he should be free to seek a timely "execution" (no pun intended) of his sentence. With that being said, I think some sort of safeguard in these instances should be put in place in order to ensure that the offender is competent to make such a decision and is not suffering from insanity or some other mental disease. Although the victim's family or friends may argue that Mr. Wright should not have the right to decide when his fate will be dealt to him, the bottom line is that he was in fact sentenced to death. If they wanted him to suffer incarceration in a maximum security prison sentence for the rest of his life (which I personally think is in some ways a harsher sentence than death), they could have expressed that preference to the prosecutor when he was deciding what sentence to seek.

Posted by: Tiffany | May 1, 2009 1:02:11 AM

If the condemned has a mental illness, the revised ADA requires governmental accommodation. It must respect his decision, or be enjoined from discrimination.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 1, 2009 8:39:47 AM

SC, you must be trolling with that last remark.

Posted by: Gray | May 1, 2009 4:02:32 PM

1) From:


2) Sec. 12131. Definitions

The term "public entity" means

(A) any State or local government;

3)Sec. 12132. Discrimination

Subject to the provisions of this subchapter, no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.

4) Then there is the enactment of "substantially limits," and "an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment," not to be attenuated by mitigation.

5) Under Public Service:

" (2) Qualified individual with a disability

The term "qualified individual with a disability" means an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies, or practices, the removal of architectural, communication, or transportation barriers, or the provision of auxiliary aids and services, meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of services or the participation in programs or activities provided by a public entity."

6) Specifically, what is missing?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 1, 2009 9:07:35 PM

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