Pennsylvania is one of 27 states that permit capital punishment in the case of severe crimes like murder. Pennsylvania has historically executed hundreds of individuals and has dozens of people currently awaiting execution. However, many of these individuals are in the process of appealing their conviction or even their sentence.
Since February 13, 2015, there has been a moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania. The governor, Tom Wolf, announced the moratorium pending his review of a report about capital punishment in the state. What does that moratorium mean for those facing criminal charges?
The courts can still sentence someone to death
The most recent execution in Pennsylvania occurred in 1999. However, there are both individuals awaiting execution pending the outcome of their appeals and the potential for juries to sentence someone to capital punishment after a guilty plea or a conviction.
Death penalty cases tend to take a long time to make their way through the appeals process and often result in someone spending decades on Death Row. Some people originally sentenced to death appeal their conviction or their sentence. Others receive pardons or exonerations that prevent the state from carrying out the sentence.
While there are concerns that the moratorium could end when the governor leaves office, he has promised to grant a reprieve to anyone on death row who does not receive a stay of execution or fails to successfully appeal their sentence.
Understanding the potential impact of the death penalty moratorium on capital punishment cases can help you better explore your options when defending yourself against such a serious accusation.