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The death penalty punishes PA's corrections workers, too

In her opinion, former SCI Graterford Superintendent Cynthia Link provides an unusual perspective on the death penalty in Pennsylvania. She describes in excruciating detail what its like to work with death-sentenced inmates.

In particular, she explains that the traumatic toll on staff assigned to that unit is so great, that they are not permitted to work there for more than 2 years. What's worse? While she was at least able to take some action to help her staff cope, there was little to nothing she could do for death-sentenced prisoners.

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Krasner Argues Pennsylvania's Death Penalty is Unconstitutional

Last year, federal defenders filed briefs with the PA Supreme Court on behalf of two clients, Cox and Marinelli, asking the Court to examine Pennsylvania’s use of the death penalty, and ultimately find it unconstitutional. A number of other organizations, including ACCR, have filed amicus briefs in support of finding the death penalty unconstitutional. Support for the position was in large part due to the results of a bipartisan study that characterized PA’s death penalty as seriously problematic.

In a brief filed Monday night, reformist prosecutor Larry Krasner urged the Supreme Court to find that the current death penalty violates the state constitution. His position is based heavily on an internal study of 155 convictions. According to the findings within the brief, 72% of Philadelphia’s death penalty cases have been overturned, largely due to ineffective assistance. Furthermore, out of the 45 people currently on death row from Philadelphia, 37 are Black. The brief is the first of its kind filed by any prosecutor’s office in the U.S.

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Opinion: Will Pennsylvania Abolish the Death Penalty?

Pennsylvania has one of the largest death rows in the nation and yet is also the only state that does not fund a statewide capital defender program for indigent defendants. Instead, counties are left to finance death penalty defense individually, and the results are severely problematic. Filler outlines some of the reasons why abolition is the only sound solution; the exorbitant cost to impose the death penalty, civil rights/race disparity issues, innocence and the legislature’s refusal to repair the broken system.

Check out opinion piece by Daniel Fuller, the dean of Drexel University’s Klein School of Law, in the @PhillyInquirer.


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PA Death Sentence Vacated

A judge in York County vacated the death sentence of Paul Jackson Henry III after determining that the jurors who sentenced him to death failed to consider 2 mitigating factors. The jurors reportedly considered one mitigating factor— that Henry did not kill the eye-witnesses to the murder. However, the prosecution and defense had stipulated to two additional mitigating factors, meaning the jurors had to consider those and weigh them against the aggravators. Because the jurors only listed one mitigating factor (and not the 2 stipulated ones) on their jury slip, it could not be proven whether they considered all the required mitigating factors prior to making a decision.

While Henry’s death sentence has been vacated, his conviction for first-degree murder still stands. Both the prosecution and defense are considering how to proceed; whether to reach a deal or impanel a new sentencing jury.

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Brief Filed in PA Supreme Court for Kareem Johnson Case

A red hat with the victim’s blood and the defendant’s sweat was key to the prosecution’s case against Kareem Johnson. Mr. Johnson was convicted and sentenced to death; he spent the next 9 years of his life on death row. Then, his defense team gained access to the original DNA report and learned that the red hat had no blood on it at all! The Prosecutor claimed that he (along with the lead investigators) “misread the report” and then made a series of “mistakes,” but such a series of calamitous errors seems unlikely. ACCR’s brief urges the Supreme Court to recognize the prosecution’s abhorrent misconduct as intentional and bar retrial for Mr. Johnson on double jeopardy grounds.

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Philly Man's Second Conviction Overturned After 28 Years on Death Row

Orlando Maisonet must now be retried or set free after spending 28 years on death row following 2 homicide convictions. The judge in this case cited prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel when vacating the second conviction. Both convictions were secured by disgraced, and now deceased, ex-prosecutor Rodger King. As a result, criminal justice reform advocates are now calling for a review of all cases handled by King.

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