PDAA Issues Statement Following Supreme Court Ruling that Denies Relief in Death Penalty Cases

September 27, 2019

Philadelphia, PA – The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) today issued the statement below in reaction to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order denying relief to Petitioners Cox and Marinelli in their applications for extraordinary King’s Bench relief. The petitioners challenged the constitutionality of the death penalty as it is applied in Pennsylvania based largely on the 2018 joint state government report. The PDAA filed an amicus brief in opposition to Marinelli.

“The death penalty is a punishment society has long determined can be warranted and that has been found to be lawful and constitutional in its application in Pennsylvania. The extraordinary relief sought by petitioners was the wrong mechanism for this type of challenge and it was properly denied. The appeals process in Pennsylvania exists to ensure this rare punishment is applied properly – and that process will continue to be utilized by individuals sentenced to death. While no prosecutor takes joy in seeking the death penalty, we believe today’s ruling is the right result for the citizens of this Commonwealth.”

Pennsylvania’s death penalty procedures constitutionally direct and limit imposition of the ultimate punishment. The law limits the number of cases eligible for the death penalty, limits the discretion the sentencing judge or jury has in imposing a sentence and ensures that sentences meet all constitutional standards. A jury, judge and the decades-long gauntlet of the appellate system, examine every case exhaustively.

Examples of the rare cases in which the death penalty has been applied include:

  • Jacob Sullivan, who was convicted of the kidnapping, raping, killing, dismembering, and disposing of his girlfriend’s adopted child, Grace Packer in 2019;
  • Raghunandan Yandamuri, who was convicted of invading a home and killing Satayrathi Venna, by slitting her throat, and suffocating to death her 10-month old grandaughter, Saanvi Venna, in 2012;
  • 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.

September 27, 2019

Contact: Lindsay Vaughan, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association lvaughan@pdaa.org or (717) 238-5416.