On June 17, 2015, the Philadelphia Bar Association, the NAACP, the Jewish Social Policy Action Network, and Pennsylvanians Against the Death Penalty joined in a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania in support of Gov. Tom Wolf’s moratorium on the death penalty. In February, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams filed an emergency petition before the state Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the governor’s action. The case will likely be argued in the fall of 2015.
The brief argues that not only are the governor’s actions authorized under Article IV, § 9 of the constitution of Pennsylvania, they are justified by the pervasive failures of the capital punishment system, which suffers from high reversal rates of convictions, racial bias, and unconstitutionally underfunded representation for those who cannot afford to pay for an attorney.
In December 2015, the PA Supreme Court upheld Governor Wolf’s authority to issue a temporary reprieve on death warrants.