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July 25, 2009

Noticing the functional death of the death penalty in Pennsylvania

This local article, headlined "Natural causes biggest threat on Pa. death row," spotlights the reality the the death penalty now essentially exists only in theory and not in practice in Pennsylvania. Here are some of the details:

In the [last] decade, Pennsylvania has executed no one. Its death row is the fourth-largest in the nation, yet the 218 men and five women are far more likely to die of natural causes than injected chemicals, gas, electricity or bullets.

Since the commonwealth reinstated the death penalty in 1978, three inmates have been executed; all had dropped their appeals. At least seven times that number have passed away, most of natural causes such as cancer or heart failure, while awaiting execution, according to an informal Corrections Department tally.

To find a Pennsylvania inmate unwillingly put to death, you have to go back almost half a century to the last use of the electric chair. "I think it is indicative of a split , people want the death penalty but don't want a lot of executions," said Richard Dieter of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center....

Duquesne University law professor Bruce Ledewitz, a former secretary for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, says that while polls show that the public backs the death penalty in Pennsylvania, the support appears less strong than in other states and the issue has not been made a political priority. "For years, I used to tell people 'Just wait, the floodgates will open and we'll have a ton of executions,'" Ledewitz said. "I no longer say that anymore, because for some reason it's not happening. ... I don't see any evidence that it will."

July 25, 2009 at 08:52 AM | Permalink


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Yet Penn. seems just fine with LWOP, including a mass of juviniles.

Have they even bothered to validate whatever execution method they would use?

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jul 25, 2009 10:49:29 AM

Noticing the functional open hunting season on the police in Philadelphia.


Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 25, 2009 12:08:43 PM

123D. The rent-seeking criminal cult attorney perpetuates his control and continued employment with civil rights suits, habeas challenges, and frivolous torts.

Posted by: Redundancy Clause | Jul 25, 2009 3:05:52 PM


PA's last nonvolunteer was executed well before I was born and I'm 40. Pennsylvania, like many of the PacRim states, likes sentencing people to death to show their moral outrage, but hates executing.

- karl

Posted by: karl | Jul 25, 2009 10:07:03 PM

Pennsylvania has been prevented from executing dozens of those on death row -- including about half a dozen exonerated, including one client of mine -- by the highly skilled and effective work of the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Community Defender Office for E.D.Pa. and to a lesser extent, and more recently, the Federal Public Defenders for the Middle and Western Districts. A few denizens of the Row, however, have now exhausted all remedies without winning relief. Pennsylvania has no effective clemency system, "thanks" to constitutional amendments several years back gutting the Pardons Board's and Governor's powers. It is quite possible for these reasons that executions will resume rather soon.

Posted by: Peter G | Jul 25, 2009 11:36:17 PM

Peter: Is Mumia one of your clients?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 26, 2009 8:57:18 AM

Peter will not answer a simple question.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 26, 2009 11:01:30 PM

Peter, which Pennsylvania inmates have exhausted all of their appeals?

Posted by: Alpino | Jul 27, 2009 2:03:32 AM

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