Pennsylvania governor continues moratorium; calls on legislature to abolish the death penalty


Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro announced earlier this month that he will not sign any execution warrants while he is in office; he will continue the moratorium on executions that former Gov. Tom Wolf declared in 2015 and called on the state General Assembly to abolish the death penalty.

Shapiro made the announcement at West Philadelphia’s Mosaic Community Church because, he said, six months ago, before he was elected, it was there that church members discussed Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system with him and “what we need to do to make our system more fair and more just.”

He admitted that “My approach to capital punishment has evolved over time,” and while he wasn’t opposed to capital punishment when he was Attorney General, “when the first capital cases came to my desk in the AG’s office, I found myself repeatedly unwilling to seek the death penalty. When my son asked me why it was OK to kill someone as a punishment for killing someone, I couldn’t look him in the eye and explain why.”

He noted that he spent time with family members of the victims of the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, in which 11 people were killed and six were wounded, who told him that “even after all the pain and anguish, they did not want the killer put to death. That moved me. And that’s stayed with me,” he said.

Shapiro vowed that he will sign a reprieve “each and every time” an execution warrant came to his desk. And he “respectfully call[ed] on the General Assembly to work with me to abolish the death penalty in Pennsylvania — once and for all. “The Commonwealth shouldn’t be in the business of putting people to death. Period. I believe that in my heart. This is a fundamental statement of morality. Of what’s right and wrong.”

Pennsylvania’s last execution was in 1999. There are 101 people on the state’s death row.

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