If you’re accused of a serious crime in Pennsylvania, you should know that there are still some extreme punishments allowed by law.
Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that still permit capital punishment. While there has been a moratorium that put those punishments on pause, it is possible that they could begin again as the government changes within the state.
A history of confusing death penalty decisions in Pennsylvania
The last person to be executed by the state was named Gary Heidnik, and his execution occurred in 1999. Since 2015, the moratorium on the death penalty has put a pause on executions, but in Montgomery County, prosecutors are again looking to seek the death penalty against a person who has been accused of killing a woman and her unborn baby.
The district attorney’s office hasn’t sought this penalty for many years, but after looking into the case, this could be the first time the penalty is requested in around a decade. What does that mean, though, since the current governor has essentially prohibited those penalties from being carried out?
A moratorium won’t stop convictions, but it can stop the penalties
When the governor Tom Wolf made the moratorium, he did essentially outlaw executing prisoners. What he did not do was take the death penalty completely off the table. People can still be convicted of the death penalty and, if the moratorium is ever reversed or revised, executed at a later date.
At the moment, the sentence is like an empty threat, but if the governor leaves office or reverses his opinion, there could be new teeth to the sentence. Those who thought they were safe and had time to fight back or at least adjust to life behind bars would again be at risk of death.
Right now, it’s not clear if the death penalty moratorium will end when the governor leaves office, but this is something to pay close attention to. If it does, it could put the death penalty back as a real threat and one that your defense would have to consider as a real risk to your health and safety. For now, a strong defense to mitigate the risk is still essential.