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HARRISBURG – June 25, 2018 − State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) today commented on the Joint State Government Commission’s report on the use of the death penalty in Pennsylvania.

“The Joint State Government Commission and Advisory Committee has produced a credible and revealing study,” Leach said. “The report concludes that our death penalty system is very expensive and lacks a way to ensure that innocent people will not be executed. Further, too many people on death row are economically or intellectually disadvantaged. And finally, there is no substantial evidence that capital punishment actually deters violent crime. This confirms my long-held suspicion that alternatives such as life in prison are more humane, more reliable and more affordable. I hope we take steps to move away from this antiquated and flawed punishment.”

Leach has introduced a death penalty abolition bill five sessions in a row. His most recent bill to abolish the death penalty, Senate Bill 703, was introduced in May of 2017 and awaits a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I have long felt that it is time for the United States to join the rest of the civilized world in ending the barbaric practice of having our government kill people in cold blood,” Leach said. “We owe it to Pennsylvanians to stop using their tax dollars to, in the words of former US Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, tinker with the machinery of death.”

Excerpts from the report:

  • “There is a significant difference between the cost of the death penalty and the cost of life in prison without parole.” (Page 24)
  • “The percentage of inmates on death row with an IQ low enough to be diagnosed as intellectually disabled is approximately the same as those serving life imprisonment for murder of the first degree, both of which are between two and three times the percentage with that low of an IQ in the general population.” (Page 25)
  • “The current clemency process does not have procedures in place to assure that it functions as a safety net to assure that factual and procedural errors that directly undermine the reliability and fairness of a capital sentence are remedied.” (Page 27)
  • “The only certain way to eliminate the risk of condemning or executing a factually innocent person would be to eliminate the sentence and not execute any convict.” (Page 28)
  • “Because the severely punitive alternative of life imprisonment without parole is available, the subcommittee on policy concludes that an alternative to the death penalty exists that would sufficiently ensure public safety and address other legitimate social and penological interests.” (Page 28)
  • “The Rules of Criminal Procedure [should] be amended to require a judge to determine intellectual disability at the pre-trial stage instead of the jury determining it post-trial.” (Page 30)
  • “The subcommittee recommends the creation of a state-funded capital defender office to represent all persons charged with or convicted of capital crimes at the trial, appellate, and state post-conviction levels.” (Page 31)

Created in 1937, the Join State Government Commission is a non-partisan, bicameral research and policy development agency for the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The Commission, upon authorization by statute or by a simple or joint resolution, has the power to conduct investigations and study issues as directed by the General Assembly. Senate Resolution No. 6, of the 2011-2012 legislative session, established this particular task force to conduct a study of capital punishment in Pennsylvania and report their findings and recommendations.

The four Task Force members are Leach, Senator Lisa Boscola, Senator Stewart Greenleaf and Senator John Rafferty. The Task Force members voted unanimously to have the Commission publish these findings.

The use of capital punishment is authorized by 31 states, the federal government and the United States military. Pennsylvania is one of those 31 states. Pennsylvania’s last involuntary execution was in 1962. Its last voluntary execution was in 1999.

Senator Daylin Leach represents the 17th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Montgomery County and Delaware County. He is also the Democratic Chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee. For more information visit www.senatorleach.com/newsroom.

Zak Pyzik
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