PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro says he will not issue any execution warrants during his term and called for the abolishment of the death penalty.
“The Commonwealth shouldn’t be in the business of putting people to death. Period,” said Shapiro.
Since 1976, three people have been executed by lethal injection in Pennsylvania with the last being in 1999, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
In Pennsylvania, the death penalty can only be applied in cases where a defendant is found guilty of first-degree murder if aggravating factors are present in the conviction.
The Governor acknowledged that those on death row “have committed serious crimes. They deserve to be put behind bars for a good long time, if not for life.”
He said he is not speaking towards the integrity of the convictions, but “rather whether death is a just and appropriate punishment for the state to inflict on its citizens.”
Shapiro also acknowledged his opinion on the death penalty, saying he once “believed that the death penalty should be reserved for the most heinous crimes” but that his opinion changed after he said families of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting victims did not wish for the alleged shooter Robert Bowers to be put to death.
Pennsylvania House Republican Spokesman Jason Gottesman responded to Shapiro’s announcement, saying “removing this measure of accountability and deterrence from prosecutorial discretion is at best tone deaf to the concerns of Pennsylvanians and at worst disrespectful to the victims of the most serious crimes in our society.”
However, not all Republicans agree. Rob Kauffman, the Republican chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said his complaint is more about money than morals since Pennsylvania hasn’t executed anyone since 1999 and automatic appeals in those cases drive costs up.
“If we’re not gonna use and historically we’re now proven we’re not gonna use it it may not be worth the cost of just having it to have it on paper,” said Kauffman (R-Franklin).
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, there are currently 101 people currently on death row. The most recent was Davone Anderson, a Cumberland County man convicted of killing two Carlisle women and an unborn baby in 2020.
A jury reached the death penalty verdict in the death of Kaylee Lyons, but was unable to reach a death penalty verdict for the murder of Sydney Parmelee, according to the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office. Anderson will be sentenced to life without parole in Parmelee’s case.
The Governor said the first execution warrant of his term came across his desk this month. Former Governor Tom Wolf previously declared a moratorium on the death penalty back in February 2015.