June 25, 2018

Absent broad perspective, intellectual honesty and concept of balanced justice, PA District Attorneys say report on capital punishment will carry no weight.

HARRISBURG, PA – The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) today provided a first response to a long-overdue report on the death penalty issued by a panel largely comprised of anti-death penalty advocates.  PDAA President John T. Adams said the association would review and respond to the Joint State Government Advisory Committee’s full report on the Death Penalty in the coming days, and issued the following statement:

“This report should not be an advocacy tool reflecting predetermined findings that restate the usual litany of opinions long-held by death penalty opponents and the majority of the commission’s members.

This study took many years to complete, but it will not be a full accounting without proper recognition of those most impacted by the crimes that lead to a death sentence or fitting attention and analysis of the supporting data, which revealed that capital punishment in Pennsylvania is not disproportionately targeted against defendants of color. Our review of the report’s findings will look for these essential components and perspectives.

Absent a broad perspective, intellectual honesty or a balanced approach to justice, the report will become nothing more than another political tool used in smear campaigns by those determined to dismantle the criminal justice system.”

The majority of Americans support the death penalty.  In the most horrific circumstances, it plays a crucial role in the criminal justice system in obtaining justice and serving public safety. The death penalty is sought in rare instances and only when the facts of a case meet the strict requirements dictated by law.  Rightly so, every case is examined exhaustively, a jury determines every sentence, and every defendant has the right of appeal.

“No district attorney takes pleasure in pursuing a death penalty case,” said Adams.  “We make those decisions based on the facts of the case, the ethical structure of our profession and the understanding that the death penalty is reserved for only the worst of the worst cold-blooded killers as defined by law.”

Recent death penalty cases in Pennsylvania include:

  • Eric Frein, who was convicted of assassinating one state trooper, seriously injuring another and terrorizing two counties for weeks before he was captured after a massive manhunt in 2014;
  • Raghunandan Yandamuri who was convicted of invading a home killing Satayrathi Venna, by slitting her throat, and suffocating to death her 10-month old graddaughter, Saanvi Venna, in 2012.
  • Authorities say it would have been nearly impossible to locate the all four murder victims buried on a Bucks County farm in 2017 had murderer Cosmo DiNardo not accepted the prosecutor’s deal to spare him the death penalty in exchange for revealing where he hid his victims.
  • Leeton Thomas was convicted in 2017 of the vengeful murder of Lisa Scheetz and her teenage daughter Haley who were witnesses in his sexual molestation case. Another teenage daughter suffered multiple stab wounds but survived Thomas’ attack.

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PDAA comments on the Penn State Study commissioned by the Pennsylvania Interbranch Commission for Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness: PA Report Refutes Death Penalty Myths.

PDAA insists Gov. Wolf take into account the perspective of families of murder victims when considering changes to the state’s death penalty law: Families of Victims Must Be Heard.

PDAA testifies before House Judiciary Committee on Capital Punishment & Gov. Wolf’s Illegal Death Penalty Moratorium.