Pennsylvania Governor Halts Executions
UPDATE: (3/3). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has left in place Gov. Wolf's reprieve of Terrence Williams, who was to be the next person executed in the state. The Court called for further arguments from the parties supporting and challenging the governor's action. Earlier: On February 13, 2015, Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania announced a halt to all executions. He said the moratorium will continue until he has "received and reviewed the forthcoming report of the Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Commission on Capital Punishment, established under Senate Resolution 6 of 2011, and there is an opportunity to address all concerns satisfactorily."
Pennsylvania has carried out three executions since 1976, all of inmates who waived their appeals. The last person executed was Gary Heidnick in 1999. An execution was scheduled for March 4, but Wolf granted the inmate a reprieve. Pennsylvania's death row is the fifth largest in the U.S., with 188 inmates as of October 1, 2014. State Senator Daylin Leach has introduced a bill to abolish the death penalty in Pennsylvania.
Governor Wolf said, "This moratorium is in no way an expression of sympathy for the guilty on death row, all of whom have been convicted of committing heinous crimes. This decision is based on a flawed system that has been proven to be an endless cycle of court proceedings as well as ineffective, unjust, and expensive. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty, 150 people have been exonerated from death row nationwide, including six men in Pennsylvania." His statement cited DPIC's Innocence List.
The six men exonerated from death row in Pennsylvania are Neil Ferber (1986), Jay Smith (1992), William Nieves (2000), Thoma Kimbell (2002), Nicholas Yarris (2003), and Harold Wilson (2005).
Highlights from Governor Wolf's statement announcing the moratorium:
SUPREME COURT TO REVIEW OKLAHOMA'S LETHAL INJECTIONS
UPDATE: (2/17). The Florida Supreme Court (5-2) has granted a stay of execution for Jerry Correll while the U.S. Supreme Court is considering Oklahoma's use of midazolam. Oklahoma and Florida use essentially the same drug protocol. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called for a stay of all executions while the Oklahoma case is under review.
On Jan. 23, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Glossip v. Gross (No. 14-7955), a case in which inmates facing execution in Oklahoma raised objections to the state's continuing use of drugs that were involved in botched executions in 2014. The case will be argued April 29. Four Justices had voted earlier to grant a stay for Charles Warner, who was originally part of the case that the Supreme Court agreed to hear, but was executed on Jan. 15. Justice Sotomayor, writing for the dissent, said:
"I am deeply troubled by this evidence suggesting that midazolam cannot constitutionally be used as the first drug in a three-drug lethal injection protocol....The questions before us are especially important now, given States’ increasing reliance on new and scientifically untested methods of execution. Petitioners have committed horrific crimes, and should be punished. But the Eighth Amendment guarantees that no one should be subjected to an execution that causes searing, unnecessary pain before death."
(Warner v. Gross, No. 14A761 (Jan. 15, 2015) (Sotomayor, J., dissenting)). See Lethal Injections.
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