For Immediate Release
December 14, 2011
PA Senate Approves Greenleaf's Death Penalty Study Resolution
Today, the Pennsylvania Senate adopted Senator Greenleaf’s
Senate Resolution 6 establishing a bipartisan task force and an advisory
committee to conduct a study of capital punishment in the Commonwealth of
The Justice Center for Research at Penn State, the Pennsylvania
Interbranch Commission on Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness, and the
Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission will collaborate on this study.
In 1972, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared Pennsylvania’s
capital sentencing procedure unconstitutional, based on the United States
Supreme Court’s Furman v. Georgia decision. In 1978, the Pennsylvania General
Assembly responded by reinstating capital punishment in compliance with
Pennsylvania and United States Supreme Court rulings. Since 1978, over 350
people have been sentenced to death in Pennsylvania but only three people have
been executed and each of the three people executed waived the right to appeal.
There are more than 200 existing capital sentences.
"Questions are frequently raised regarding the costs, deterrent
effect and appropriateness of capital punishment," said Senator Greenleaf. "I
believe that we need to answer these questions."
The American Bar Association identified several areas in which
Pennsylvania’s death penalty system falters in guaranteeing each capital
defendant fairness and accuracy in all proceedings. The Pennsylvania Supreme
Court Committee on Racial and Gender Bias in the Justice System determined that
racial, ethnic and gender biases exist, and that those biases significantly
affect the way parties, witnesses, litigants, lawyers, court employees, and
potential jurors are treated. Post-conviction DNA testing has shown that there
are wrongful convictions, even in capital cases.
The task force and advisory committee may hold public hearings
as necessary to receive testimony about any of the subjects of study
enumerated. The task force and advisory committee shall report their findings
and recommendations to the Senate no later than two years after the date this
resolution is adopted.
"This will be a balanced study, taking into account all points
of view including those of law enforcement and crime victims on whether the
death sentence has a deterrent effect and contributes to the protection of the
public," said Senator Greenleaf.
Click Here to read a full summary of SR 6