Governor Rendell has a historic opportunity to honor a campaign pledge and put a stop to Pennsylvania's archaic, ineffective and profoundly cruel and unfair death penalty.
Daylin Leach, a Democratic state senator from Montgomery County, last week introduced a bill that seeks to add Pennsylvania to the list of states like New Jersey, New Mexico and New York that have recently abandoned capital punishment.
Leach pointed out that Pennsylvania's death penalty costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars because of the years and even decades of appeals to which death-row prisoners are entitled. At the same time, he said, the system has sent at least six demonstrably innocent people to death row.
When he first ran for governor in 2002, Rendell, who in his two terms as Philadelphia's elected district attorney put more people on death row than any other DA in the state's modern history, said that he would support a moratorium on executions if he were shown that such a move was "warranted."
Only six weeks after he entered the governor's mansion, a commission of retired judges and law-school presidents appointed earlier by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to study the state's capital-punishment system did just that, issuing a 500-page report detailing rampant bias in the state's legal system (two-thirds of those on the state's death row are black and nearly all are poor).
The report called on all three branches of government, including the governor, to halt all executions until problems with the system can be analyzed and corrected through court reforms, new rules for prosecutors and changes in state law.
Governor Rendell ignored that report, and has subsequently signed more than 100 death warrants ...
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