February 17 – The new governor in Pennsylvania is looking to abolish the death penalty in the commonwealth.
PA is one of 27 states that allows executions, but currently has a moratorium on it.
Governor Josh Shapiro has said he wouldn’t sign a death warrant while he’s in office.
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “That’s him as a single person making a decision for the entire state. I’m a bit critical of overuse of executive power. However, I would say the way we use the death penalty it doesn’t even provide a deterrent which should be one of the bigger reasons you’d want to do it. Myself with my own perspective I feel like people should have to the natural end of their life to make restitution in any way they can for the victims, for themselves, even if it’s just offering prayers, whatever it is, I feel like they should have the opportunity to do that. That’s just my personal belief. As long as it’s not a deterrent, as long as we can give life without the possibility of parole, to keep them from ever being able to harm others, I certainly see the wisdom in re-looking and maybe not doing that any more, but I don’t like the idea of him making a single person decision.”
Pat Ryan of NewsTalk added, “He doesn’t get to make that decision. If it’s Josh Shapiro and something happens gruesome to his family, do you pivot on that?”
Jansen said, “The emotion shouldn’t be reason either way. We really need to look at it from all the complex sides.”
Ryan continued, “How about the rest of the people in the commonwealth, your kingship here? Leave it up to the people for goodness sake.”
Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “Effectively, Pennsylvania has not had the death penalty, it’s been almost 25 years since the last death warrant was signed. To be clear, it is up to the governor and only the governor as to whether a death warrant gets signed. He has that total discretion.”
Shapiro is calling on the general assembly to formally ban it.
Barkdoll said, “This is the trend around America. Fewer and fewer states are now imposing the death penalty.”
Many studies have shown that it actually costs more to execute a person than it does to keep the person in prison for life.
Barkdoll said, “I know that’s counterintuitive, but the reason is when they’re sentenced to death, it triggers just endless appeals at the state and the federal level that’s all on the taxpayer’s dime. Those appeals can go on for decades. So all these studies have concluded that life in prison actually ends up being cheaper, more efficient for the government. I do think you’re going to see push back on this from district attorneys. They argue that this is a big bargaining chip in a murder to get someone to plead guilty if the death penalty is off the table. If the DA has that discretion.”
Would the votes be in the PA general assembly to do away with the death penalty? Remains to be seen.
Ryan wondered, “What’s the general consensus out of the public? You hear these lawmakers are moving towards taking it off the table. You take a family member with a child that has been at the mercy of a monster. You can’t tell me, plug it in. Let me throw the switch. Let me put the needle in.”
Jansen pointed out, “That’s why we don’t let victims make that decision because of course they’re going to have that emotional reaction. Our representatives should have that say.”
Ryan said, “Hold on a second. What’s the general consensus out of the public?”
Barkdoll said, “Historically, public opinion has been in support of the death penalty, but that has been eroding. That number has been ticking down over the last 20 or 30 years. I would say it’s close to 50/50 and now maybe slightly in favor against the death penalty.”
“Ridiculous,” Ryan scoffed.
Jansen said, “That’s why we have elected representatives. So we don’t have the mob.”
“Then put it on a referendum,” Ryan suggested.
“No, no, no, no,” Jansen said. “We do not make laws by referendum because that’s mob rule.”
Ryan said, “I don’t need someone as a legislator. My one legislator. How about the radar then? It’s one legislator that gets to decide radar for everybody.”
Jansen said, “That’s somebody controlling the chairmanship and not allowing something to go forward. That’s a little different than whether or not all the legislators can have a fair vote.”
Ryan asked, “Then why not a referendum?”
There are some legislators that are suggesting a referendum.
Barkdoll said, “If the House and the Senate pass legislation on this for two consecutive sessions, it would go on to a ballot. That could be an argument on where this thing goes. The problem is we are effectively not carrying out this penalty. The cases are just jammed up endlessly. There’s no way to get these people to the death penalty even if when they may want it to happen.”
Jansen pointed out, “A referendum, you know what that gets controlled by then? Social media. Propaganda. Emotional persuasion. That’s not a great way to make law. At all.”
Ryan said, “If you ask anybody individually. Your child gets butchered….”
“Of course,” Jansen said. “That’s the problem.”
“You’re not thinking about the other people that are on the receiving end of this,” Ryan countered.
Jansen contended, “They will have some input into that, of course, with who they elect and how they lobby. That’s fine. But emotions control referendums and that’s not a good way to legislate. It’s complex and you need to look at it from a lot of different angles in society as to whether that makes sense or not.”
Ryan said, “I don’t think this is complex at all.”
“Put the victims then on the jury,” Jansen suggested. “Put the victim’s family on the jury and let them decide the outcome of a trial.”
Ryan said, “Leaving it up to one guy or leaving it up to handful …”
“I agree that’s wrong,” Jansen said.
What do YOU think? Should the death penalty be abolished in Pennsylvania? Yes, no and why? We want to hear from YOU. Call 877-709-1037 and let your voice be heard.