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December 21, 2015

Pennsylvania Supreme Court upholds Gov Wolf's execution moratorium

As reported in this local press article, Pennsylvania's "Gov. Wolf acted within his constitutional authority to temporarily halt the execution of a convicted murderer from Philadelphia, the state Supreme Court ruled on Monday."  Here is more from the article about this notable ruling from the top court in the Keystone State:

In a unanimous decision, the high court said Wolf had the power to delay the death sentence for Terrance Williams until a legislative task force issued its final report on the future of capital punishment in Pennsylvania.  The ruling doesn't apply to Wolf's broader moratorium on the death penalty, but represented a victory for the governor in the broader and contentious battle over the future of executions in the commonwealth.

Wolf announced the reprieve for Williams in February, saying he would shelve all executions until after the report was issued.  That decision that was challenged by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams and prosecutors from other counties, who argued, among other things, that the governor's position unlawfully meddled with the jury's decision in the case.

But in a 33-page decision written by Justice Max Baer, the court said, "we disagree with the Commonwealth's suggestion that the reprieve unconstitutionally altered a final judgment of this Court; rather, the execution of the judgment is merely delayed."

The court was careful to say it was not considering whether Wolf's overall moratorium was legal; instead, it said, it was weighing specifically whether the governor could delay the execution of Williams, a former quarterback at Germantown High School who was convicted for the 1984 killing of Amos Norwood, a 56-year-old church volunteer. "Future challenges to reprieves granted by Governor Wolf will have to await independent examination based upon our holdings herein," the court wrote....

Wolf issued a brief statement saying he was pleased by the court's ruling. When he announced the decision earlier this year, he called the death penalty "ineffective, unjust, and expensive."  A report from the task force studying if the death penalty can be legally and effectively administered in Pennsylvania was initially due two years ago. But its deadline has been extended.

Shawn Nolan, Terrance Williams' attorney, said Monday that he had not yet shared the news with his client but was pleased with the decision. "We have been saying all along that it was constitutional what the governor did," he said. "We're gratified that the Supreme Court made a unanimous decision."

Williams' case is also scheduled to go before the U.S. Supreme Court in February. In that appeal, Nolan is arguing that former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald D. Castille should have recused himself from hearing appeal in the case because he was Philadelphia's district attorney when Williams was sentenced to death.

Cameron Kline, spokesman for the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, said that prosecutors respected the decision even though they had argued for another outcome.

The ruling of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court today in Pennsylvania v. Williams is comprised by  this majority opinion and this concurring opinion.

Prior related posts:

December 21, 2015 at 10:08 PM | Permalink

Comments

That concurring opinion would make a nice op-ed.

Posted by: Joe | Dec 21, 2015 10:17:02 PM

The people of Philadelphia will well deserve the surge in murder, for their voting for this Governor.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 22, 2015 12:07:58 AM

"That concurring opinion would make a nice op-ed."

Tells you all you need to know about libs and the judiciary,

At 'rat governor denying justice--gotta love it.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 22, 2015 8:49:52 AM

Supremacy, do you have Bill Otis email address?

Posted by: Goodoldboy | Dec 22, 2015 9:24:05 AM

The Pa. Constitution expressly allows the governor to grant reprieves. The governor did so here. What's the problem? The Pa. Supreme Court, like me, saw none. Eminently well reasoned opinion.

Posted by: anon | Dec 22, 2015 11:04:30 AM

Not sure how much a moratorium here will affect the murder rate especially since only three people were executed there in the last forty-five years but "the people" was on notice -- he said while running that he supported a moratorium & vote for them they did.

Posted by: Joe | Dec 22, 2015 12:01:50 PM

Wolf has richly earned the white-hot hatred of victims' families. He is immoral scum. In other words, he's a Democrat.

But what's more depressing--that faux erudites are willing to trade our system for the benefit of killers. Putting aside the utter immorality of Wolf's cruelty to people like Trista Eng's family---what actions like Wolf's do is ruin the fabric of the rule of law. It's painfully clear that the drafters of the Pennsylvania Constitution didn't foresee an ass like Wolf sentencing people who didn't ask to be the family members of murder victims, but what's also painfully clear--we're trading in a rule of men for the rule of law. And it doesn't matter than the "men" were democratically elected. If "you rate what you skate" is the new norm for elected officials, then that door swings both ways. Let's say a prosecutor says, you know what, I am going to tank on all cases of vigilante justice?

Lawlessness ain't pretty. And while Wolf's action falls within his power, there's little doubt that the command to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed" is being flouted.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 22, 2015 7:12:47 PM

Wolf has richly earned the white-hot hatred of victims' families. He is immoral scum. In other words, he's a Democrat.

But what's more depressing--that faux erudites are willing to trade our system for the benefit of killers. Putting aside the utter immorality of Wolf's cruelty to people like Trista Eng's family---what actions like Wolf's do is ruin the fabric of the rule of law. It's painfully clear that the drafters of the Pennsylvania Constitution didn't foresee an ass like Wolf sentencing people who didn't ask to be the family members of murder victims, but what's also painfully clear--we're trading in a rule of men for the rule of law. And it doesn't matter than the "men" were democratically elected. If "you rate what you skate" is the new norm for elected officials, then that door swings both ways. Let's say a prosecutor says, you know what, I am going to tank on all cases of vigilante justice?

Lawlessness ain't pretty. And while Wolf's action falls within his power, there's little doubt that the command to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed" is being flouted.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 22, 2015 7:12:48 PM

GoodOldBoy. You may contact him here.

http://www.crimeandconsequences.com/crimblog/

I prefer to not discuss any private relationships I may have here to avoid hurting anyone's reputation.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 23, 2015 8:36:29 PM

Federalist writes "He is immoral scum. In other words, he's a Democrat."
Such Trump-like drivel is bound to persuade no one.

Posted by: anon | Dec 23, 2015 11:55:42 PM

Au contraire, anon---you know it already. I don't need to convince you---deep down you know that Trista Eng's family deserves better than what Wolf is doing to them.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 24, 2015 9:50:07 AM

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