“On Wednesday, Sept. 11, at least four entities will argue in front of the state Supreme Court in a hearing that could ultimately see Pennsylvania's death penalty struck down.”
Vicki Schieber lost her daughter Shannon in 1998 to a serial rapist and murderer. Prior to the trial, Vicki and her husband decided, based on their Catholic faith, that they didn’t want their daughter’s murderer to be executed. The prosecutor ignored them and pursued the death penalty.
“The case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court argues that Pennsylvania’s death penalty system is cruel. I have lived that truth. Victims deserve better than endless trials and appeals that expend countless dollars on death penalty cases. We deserve better than a system meting out the ultimate punishment in our name whether we want it or not.
Pennsylvania should abolish the death penalty and replace it with a system that truly honors victims and their surviving family members.”Read More
Pennsylvania was previously the only state in the country without state-wide funding for capital defense. This year however, Pennsylvania’s legislature has allocated $500,000, partly in response to a bipartisan state study on the death penalty. While the funds are a start to improving the quality of defense for those facing capital punishment, there are significant problems to overcome.
“Imagine there’s a terrible drought across Pennsylvania and the Legislature decides to address the problem by opening up a lemonade stand in Harrisburg,” Bookman said. “That’s what they’ve done here to address the state-wide problem with capital punishment.”Read More
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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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.Read More
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.
After prosecutors won a first degree murder conviction, both sides stressed to the jury the weight of the decision they needed to make. Jurors then deliberated for four hours, and according to the foreman, they remained deadlocked (7-5) for the entirety of their time in the jury room. As a result of the split, the judge will impose a life without the possibility of parole sentence for Dekota Baptiste.
“There’s no victory here,” Monahan said after the deadlock was declared. “One man is dead and the other will serve the rest of his life in prison. Two families are shattered.”Read More
Orlando Maisonet spent 28 years on death row following a trial plagued by ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial misconduct by disgraced Philly DA Roger King. Almost three decades later, Maisonet was resentenced to 14 to 28 years in prison plus two years probation and released from PA Death Row. According to his defense attorney, Daniel Silverman, Mr. Maisonet’s case represents one of the most troubling parts of the criminal justice system, “It was way too easy for the state to unfairly convict Mr. Maisonet 28 years ago, and far too difficult for Mr. Maisonet to finally receive the justice he was always due.”Read More
One third of U.S. states with the death penalty have not carried out an execution in at least ten years…sometimes much longer. Pennsylvania is no exception; the last execution occurred in June of 1999. Additionally, since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1979, 3 people have been executed. All three individuals, including the two who were executed in 1995, waived their rights to appeals and asked that their executions be carried out.Read More