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Pennsylvania death penalty appeals

Pausing the Penalty in Pennsylvania Appeals

The United States of America remains one of the few remaining countries to institute the death penalty as a form of punishment for criminal wrongdoing. There are 19 states within the country that have outlawed the death penalty altogether and 31 that support the death penalty. While some among the 31 states do not support the death penalty in practice, their laws remain such that the penalty may be practiced when deemed necessary. As of April 1st of this year the range in those sentenced to death vary drastically among states. For example, on April 1st California had 746 inmates sitting on death row while states like Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming, and New Hampshire had only one or two. In 1976 the death penalty was once again allowed in the country after a brief period of illegality. Since then, Texas has executed 528 inmates, four states have executed two inmates, and Pennsylvania has executed three. Pennsylvania is currently among the list of 31 that support the death penalty, however, with the governor’s recent moratorium this list may soon be an even 30.

Federal Appeals in Pennsylvania 

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf ran a platform that promised constituents a moratorium on the death penalty within the State of Pennsylvania. For the past seven months Governor Wolf has kept this promise. Although Pennsylvanians have been sentenced to death on his watch he has exercised his executive death row reprieves to ensure that no executions are performed. His strategy has in practice resulted in a moratorium on the use of the death penalty while prosecutors carry out a challenge in the state’s Supreme Court. Wolf has announced that he plans to continue such a use of reprieves until the assigned task force on capital punishment makes recommendations and those recommendations are “satisfactorily addressed.”

The Controversy

There may be few little topics within the country that evoke as much debate as does the use of the death penalty. Both logically and emotionally, U.S. citizens both staunchly praise and fervently resent the penalty. Thus it is no surprise that the governor’s strategy has upset supporters of the death penalty along with prosecutors who seek the penalty in sentencing phases of criminal proceedings. Critics of the death penalty believe that the governor is well within his rights to exercise such reprieves. He has support from a legal standpoint as well according to H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr., a deputy in the governor’s office of General Counsel. While critics are insisting that his use of reprieves is wholly unconstitutional, Moulton says that when it comes to the question of whether this use is constitutional, “The answer is clearly ‘yes.’” While all sides agree that the governor himself cannot suspend the death penalty altogether, Moulton claims that even without reason the governor is entitled to the use of reprieves, at least temporarily. His advisors have written, in their brief defending his actions, “The courts have no cause under Pennsylvania law to interfere with this exercise of executive power granted by the people of the commonwealth solely to their governor.”

For now, the legal debate remedy remains to be seen. If you have questions or concerns regarding how to handle a criminal appeal contact the attorneys at Brownstone Appellate Litigation Law Firm today.

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