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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: February 17, 2023 12:26 PM
From: Senator Katie J. Muth and Sen. Sharif Street
To: All Senate members
Subject: Death Penalty Repeal
In the near future, we will be reintroducing legislation that would repeal the death penalty in Pennsylvania. It is not only an ineffective deterrent, it is an incredibly costly and flawed system of punishment. This legislation was SB 499 from last session, which was companion legislation to that of Representative Rabb and Representative Ryan. 
One innocent life taken at the hands of the state is one too many.
Although Pennsylvania has one of the country’s highest death row populations, currently at 101 inmates, only three executions have occurred in recent decades, and the state has not executed anyone who did not voluntarily give up their appeals in more than 50 years. According to a Reading Eagle analysis, those three executions have cost taxpayers $816 million. Additionally, the Urban Institute’s study on the cost of the death penalty in Maryland estimates a death penalty case costs $2 million more than a non-death penalty case. We believe this to be an irresponsible use of our state’s limited resources.
Additionally, since 2010, the homicide rate in states with the death penalty has been 18% or higher than in states without it. Thus, it is clearly not an effective deterrent to criminals. Furthermore, we know that when a person is convicted of the death penalty they will start an appeals process lasting decades, making it more likely that they die of old age rather than lethal injection.
One innocent life taken at the hands of the state is one too many.
There are also incredible risks and irreparable injustices of having the death penalty. Of the 408 Pennsylvania prisoners sentenced to death between 1978 and 2015, 169 were resentenced to life, 16 were resentenced to a term of years, and 11 were exonerated. Therefore, the state has not only freed nearly four times the number of people it has executed in recent decades, there is a risk of executing an innocent person every time we have an execution as long as the death penalty remains on the books.
Lastly, according to a recent study, at least 4.1% of all defendants sentenced to death in the United States in the modern era are innocent. For this reason, the risks of continuing the death penalty far outweigh the benefits, to which, there are few, if any.
One innocent life taken at the hands of the state is one too many.

Introduced as SB600