Death penalty debated in Pennsylvania
By biconews On 22 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Susanna Thomas

Dear community,

While Pennsylvania’s death penalty is still in effect, on Thursday, Feb. 10, the City Council made Philadelphia the nation’s largest municipial authority to call for a moratorium on capital punishment, passing the resolution by a majority of 12-4. In doing so, Philadelphia joins the city of Charlotte, N.C., the American Bar Association, and Illinois governor George Ryan. Many other public bodies as well are calling for executions to be halted until questions of the accuracy and fairness of the death penalty’s application are fully answered.

On Tuesday, Feb. 22, the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee will hold public hearings on Senate Bill 952, which would call for a two-year statewide moratorium on executions, during which time experts would examine the fairness and constitutionality of the death penalty’s application. The bill was cosponsored by state Senators Vince Fumo, Vincent Huges and Shirley Kitchen. Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and various legal experts will speak during the hearings, which will take place at the Capitol Building in Harrisburg from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The

Pennsylvania Abolitionists are organizing a bus from Philadelphia to Harrisburg for this event: to join the excursion, students can email or call (215) 387-6555.

Issues of innocence, race, and equity in legal representation have been raised regarding capital punishment. To date, there have been 85 innocent people released from America’s death row: since 1973, 57 percent have been people of color, and since 1997, 75 percent have been black. Of the 126 people currently on Philadelphia’s death row, 112 are people of color: 103 (82 percent) are Black.

On Jan. 31, Governor Ryan suspended all executions in Illinois, saying, “There is no margin of error when it comes to putting a person to death.”

Philadelphia City Council members Frank Rizzo (R), W. Thacher Longstreth (R), Joan Krajewski (D) and Richard Mariano (R) voted against the resolution, choosing to support the continuation of executions. The resolution’s supporters included council members Jannie L. Blackwell (D), Michael Nutter (D), Darrell Clarke (D), Blondell Reynolds Brown (D), David Cohen (D), and W. Wilson Goode, Jr. (D). They also include James Kenney (D), Angel Ortiz (D), Frank Dicicco (D), Council President Anna Verna (D), and of course the resolution’s co-sponsors, Donna Reed Miller (D) and Marian Tasco (D).

Councilman Brian O’Neill (R) was not present and did not vote.

You can reach Philadelphia’s council members to express thanks or concern on this and other issues using the following address format:

City Council Member (Last name)

(Room Number), City Hall

Philadelphia, PA 19107-3290

To express your opinion on the death penalty, you can also contact Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham at 1421 Arch Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102, (215) 686-8703. Abraham has called for and used the death penalty more often than any other prosecutor in the country.

(My sources are the Pennsylvania Abolitionists United Against the Death Penalty, National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and the Philadelphia City Hall Clerk’s Office).

Susanna Thomas BMC ’02

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