Response to the Joint State Government Commission’s Report on Capital Punishment in Pennsylvania: The Report of the Task Force and Advisory Committee
Nearly seven years ago, the Pennsylvania Senate passed a Resolution tasking the Joint State Government Commission of the General Assembly with the responsibility of examining capital punishment in Pennsylvania. Individuals were selected as Advisory Committee Members and over the years worked to develop a report. The Advisory Committee was made up largely of death penalty opponents. The Senate Resolution also authorized the Justice Center for Research at Penn State University, in conjunction with the Interbranch Commission on Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Fairness, to collaborate on a study of the administration of the death penalty in Pennsylvania. Professor John Kramer led this study.
In October 2017, Professor Kramer and his team released their data-driven study, based on the examination of actual capital cases in Pennsylvania and concluded that capital punishment in Pennsylvania is not disproportionately targeted against defendants of color. Months later, on June 25, 2018, the Commission released its report, which was supposed to include, in part, the Kramer Study. This Report took many years to complete, but as we explain below failed in its task to be a full accounting of capital punishment in Pennsylvania.
No district attorney takes pleasure in pursuing a death penalty case. Decisions regarding capital punishment are made based on the facts of a case and the applicable law. Capital punishment is only sought in the most egregious and violent cases of first-degree murder.