Criminal Justice Reform Advocates Protest House Committee’s Unscheduled Vote on Death Penalty Resolution

June 8, 2015 5:00 pm

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ACLU of Pennsylvania
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HARRISBURG, PA – On Monday afternoon, the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee held an unscheduled meeting to vote on a non-binding resolution that protests the moratorium on executions issued by Governor Tom Wolf earlier this year in anticipation of an ongoing, Senate-approved analysis of capital punishment. The committee vote was held three days before the committee is scheduled to host a hearing on the issue.

The following can be attributed to Kathleen Lucas, Executive Director, Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty:

“The supporters of this resolution may be worried that the ongoing bipartisan study on the death penalty will show that the whole system is a mess and cannot be fixed. When a conservative state like Nebraska abolishes capital punishment, people take notice and start to ask whether it is time for Pennsylvania to do the same. That’s making the ‘hang ’em high’ crowd nervous.”

The following can be attributed to Steve Honeyman, Interim Executive Director, Witness to Innocence:

“The passage of HR 143 by the House Judiciary Committee demonstrates a complete lack of regard for the six men exonerated from Pennsylvania’s death row. When Governor Wolf issued his moratorium on executions, he explicitly cited the examples of two such exonerees, Nick Yarris and Harold Wilson, both of whom spent decades in prison for crimes they did not commit.

“At the very least this moratorium is meant to serve as a safeguard to ensure no innocent person is sent to their death. We view the secretive nature of this vote as a vote that innocent lives do not matter.”

The following can be attributed to Marc Bookman, Executive Director, Atlantic Center for Capital Representation:

“You have to love a group of politicians who decide the answer before actually hearing the facts. This is like going to a sporting event where the final score gets announced first, and then the game gets played.

“Had the House Judiciary Committee been interested in hearing any facts at all about Pennsylvania’s death penalty, they would have learned that Pennsylvania leads the country by leaps and bounds in mistakes involving death sentences, that innocent men have been exonerated off Pennsylvania’s death row, that many victims fully support the Governor, and that the death penalty here is exorbitantly expensive and a waste of money that could be used for our schools, infrastructure, and police forces.

“Even Chief Justice Saylor has declared that our death penalty system is in disrepair. But why hear from relevant voices, when you can simply vote without a hearing?”

The following can be attributed to Andy Hoover, Legislative Director, ACLU of Pennsylvania:

“By holding an unannounced committee meeting, the House is jumping through some serious procedural hoops for a non-binding resolution. After Nebraska repealed the death penalty a few weeks ago, the supporters of this archaic punishment know that they are losing.

“Across Pennsylvania and across the country, more and more people are realizing that the death penalty is a flawed government program. It doesn’t work. Governor Wolf’s moratorium is a reasoned response to the mass error that plagues capital punishment in this state.”

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