Media Contact

February 16, 2023

PHILADELPHIA - Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro announced today that he will continue the moratorium on executions established by his predecessor, Tom Wolf. Shapiro also urged the Pennsylvania General Assembly to repeal capital punishment.

The commonwealth has not executed anyone since 1999 and has not executed anyone who had not given up their appeals since the early 1960s. Today, there are more than 100 people with a sentence of death in Pennsylvania’s prisons.

The following can be attributed to Elizabeth Randol, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania:

“The death penalty is an archaic, broken policy from a bygone era, and we applaud Governor Shapiro for continuing the moratorium. The concepts of basic fairness, equality, and justice are missing from Pennsylvania’s capital punishment regime and from the criminal legal system broadly. The government should not have the ultimate power of deciding who lives and who dies.

“The commonwealth’s failure to fund indigent defense has created a tiered justice system, one for those who can afford to hire a private attorney and one for those who cannot. Most people sentenced to death in Pennsylvania were too poor to afford private counsel, and they are disproportionately Black people. In a state with a Black population of about 12 percent, more than half of the people sentenced to death are Black.

“We also know that innocent people have been sentenced to death in the commonwealth, and they were exonerated only because of the dogged work of appeals attorneys, not with any help from the government. In fact, in most exoneration cases, prosecutors have fought appeals and tried to sustain death sentences for those innocent men.

“Finally, the structure of capital cases is inherently weighted against defendants. Jurors who serve in capital cases must be willing to implement a death sentence, and research shows that people who support the death penalty are more likely to favor the word of prosecutors and police.

“The death penalty is a failed public policy. It is time for the General Assembly to sweep it into the dustbin of history.”