Death Penalty Focus Applauds Moratorium, Urges Golden State to Follow Suit

SAN FRANCISCO – Newly elected Governor Tom Wolf placed a moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania today until concerns about the fairness of the state’s death penalty system are addressed.

The Governor’s action is part of a growing movement to abandon the practice. Pennsylvania is the fourth state in four years to impose a moratorium on the death penalty, in addition to six states that have abolished the practice since 2007.

“I think Governor Wolf realizes that when you have more exonerated prisoners than executed prisoners in 30 years, the system handed to you was obviously broken,” said Nick Yarris, who was exonerated by DNA evidence after serving 21 years on Pennsylvania’s death row.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center’s 2014 Year End Report, the country saw the lowest number of death sentences handed down in 40 years and the lowest number of executions in 20 years. Though California still houses the largest Death Row in the country, a Field Poll last year found that support for the death penalty was falling rapidly, with voters’ support at its lowest point in half a century.

“I applaud the decision by Governor Wolf to join the growing number of states putting a stop to this costly and broken system,” said Matt Cherry, executive director of Death Penalty Focus. “The writing is on the wall: it’s time for California to follow suit and officially abolish the death penalty.”

The parallels between Pennsylvania’s death penalty system and California’s system are undeniable. Pennsylvania has spent over $350 million on the death penalty over a period of time during which only three people have been executed and it currently houses the fifth largest death row in the country. Similarly, California could save $130 million a year by abolishing the death penalty, which has been on hold since 2006. This has placed California in first place for the largest death row in the nation.

For additional information or to schedule an interview with Nick Yarris, who now lives in California, or Death Penalty Focus Executive Director Matt Cherry, please contact Communications Manager Leslie Fulbright.

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