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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: September 4, 2019 02:56 PM
From: Senator Daylin Leach
To: All Senate members
Subject: Repealing the Death Penalty
Soon I will reintroduce legislation that would repeal the death penalty in Pennsylvania. This is the sixth legislative session in a row that I have introduced this bill. Last session’s version, Senate Bill 703, was cosponsored by Senators Haywood, Hughes, and Blake.

On December 14, 2011, an overwhelming majority of the Senate adopted Senate Resolution 6, which instructed the Joint State Government Commission to study Pennsylvania’s death penalty. I was appointed to serve alongside Senators Greenleaf, Rafferty, and Boscola on the task force that oversaw the study. The results of our work have only reinforced what I have believed for so long: the death penalty is a bad idea.

Whatever one's views about the morality of capital punishment, there are two incontrovertible facts which make it inappropriate for Pennsylvania: the death penalty is both expensive and flawed.

It is important to remember that the death penalty, at its core, is just another government program. Since 1978, Pennsylvania has only executed three people, and each case cost taxpayers millions of dollars. This is dramatically higher than what non-capital murder cases cost. At a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, several judges testified that the death penalty was draining Pennsylvania of scarce resources which could be better used elsewhere in the criminal justice system. Can we really say that this is a wise investment?

Further, while we have only executed three people in recent decades, we have freed over twice that number. We established beyond any doubt that one was completely innocent of the crimes that sent him to death row. Others were acquitted, or had all of the charges against them dropped, or were freed by the Supreme Court. A death penalty is obviously irrevocable, so for our capital process to have such a high rate of provable error is cause for concern. According to the Joint State Government Commission study, “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.”

To continue such a flawed yet expensive system seems contrary to the best interests of the citizens of our Commonwealth. Let’s end it.

Please join me in supporting this important legislation.

If you have questions about this legislation, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Introduced as SB848