Pennsylvania Prosecutors Issue Response to Joint State Government Report on the Death Penalty

July 2, 2018

HARRISBURG, PA − Pennsylvania’s prosecutors today said the long-overdue report by the Joint State Government Commission on the death penalty covers little new ground and glosses over important findings that fail to fit the narrative that death penalty opponents had hoped would be revealed.

PDAA’s complete response to the Report may be found here.

“The report couldn’t produce the system-wide indictment death penalty opponents wanted because the facts don’t match their narrative,” said Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) President and Berks County District Attorney John Adams. “Instead, we find ourselves responding to the same-old anti-death penalty talking points.”

In its 29-page response, the PDAA offered additional context and clarification to the larger points of the report, including the glaring mischaracterization and minimization of critical findings by one of the Report’s primary researchers, Professor John Kramer, that capital punishment in Pennsylvania is not disproportionately targeted against defendants of color. The Report also fails to adequately recognize the voice of victims.

The response also addresses inaccuracies and deficiencies in the report regarding the cost of capital cases, access to and funding of a proper defense, and outright false assertions regarding the intellectually disabled, and the court’s determination of a defendant’s competency.

“This report could have been so much more than what it is,” said Adams. “By ignoring the most
important and newest findings of the Kramer study, and continuing to present unsubstantiated accusations as truth, this publicly-funded report failed in its mission to be a credible or objective resource for elected officials and public policymakers to consider.”

Carol Lavery, former Victim Advocate for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Pamela Grosh, Program Director, Victim Witness Services Office of the District Attorney of Lancaster County joined the PDAA in signing on to its response. Both were members of the Advisory Committee.