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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: July 8, 2013 03:24 PM
From: Senator Daylin Leach
To: All Senate members
Subject: Repeal of the Death Penalty
In the near future, I will be re-introducing legislation that would repeal the Death Penalty in Pennsylvania. Whatever one's views about the morality of Capital Punishment, there are two incontrovertible facts which make it inappropriate for Pennsylvania.

The first is the fiscal impact of having a death penalty on the books. It is important to remember that the death penalty, at its core, is just another government program. A recent study in neighboring Maryland found that each capital case cost 3 million dollars. This is dramatically higher than what non-capital murder cases cost. Further, at a hearing of the Judiciary Committee, several current sitting judges testified that the death penalty was draining Pennsylvania of scarce resources which could be used to enhance the prosecution of violent criminals or reduce our state's chronic prison over-crowding situation.

Recently, other states, including our neighbor to the east, New Jersey, have eliminated the death penalty simply because it was too expensive. Here in Pennsylvania, we have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the death penalty over the past decades, and have only executed 3 people in the past 48 years and have not executed a single person who has not asked to be executed. Can we really say that this is a wise investment in our current financial situation?

The second fact which should give us all pause about capital punishment is that while we have only executed 3 people in recent decades, we have actually freed twice that number. We established beyond doubt, through DNA evidence, that one was completely innocent of the crimes that sent him to death row. Others were acquitted, had all charges dropped or were freed by the Supreme Court. A death penalty is obviously irrevocable. To have such a high rate of provable error has to cause concern, especially since in the majority of cases, there is no DNA evidence available, rendering it a near-certainty that completely innocent people will be executed under the current regime.

To continue such a flawed, yet expensive system seems contrary to the best interests of the citizens of our Commonwealth.

Introduced as SB1087