PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s now official, says Gov. Tom Wolf.
No one will be executed under his watch until a comprehensive study is completed by a previously appointed Task Force on Capital Punishment.
In Pittsburgh last month, KDKA political editor Jon Delano asked Wolf about his campaign pledge.
“I want to make sure before we resort to the death penalty that that is a fair and effective deterrent to crime and a fair punishment,” said Wolf on Jan. 9.
In his statement on Friday, the governor noted that with DNA and other diagnostic tools some on death row were found innocent.
“Since reinstatement of the death penalty, 150 people have been exonerated from death row nationwide, including six men in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said in a statement.
“One of these men, Harold Wilson, twice had death warrants signed against him, meaning Pennsylvania came within days of executing an innocent man.”
Wolf also said, while studies were incomplete, the death penalty is more often assessed against poor and minority defendants.
In reality, not much changes.
Prosecutors can still seek the death penalty, but no one was executed under Governors Mark Schweiker, Ed Rendell, or Tom Corbett.
And only three men have been executed since 1976 with the last one in 1999.
But Wolf’s action brought a strong denunciation from the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, saying, “He has turned his back on the silenced victims of cold-blooded killers.”
And the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association called the decision a “travesty.”
So how long a moratorium?
“We need to study until I’m satisfied that the death penalty is actually doing what it is supposed to do, serves as a deterrent that is being fairly applied,” said Wolf last month. “Until I am convinced of that, I’ll look for other ways to make sure that serious offenders are punished.”