Capital punishment is a legal punishment in Pennsylvania .
Despite remaining a legal penalty, there have been no executions in Pennsylvania since 1999, and only three since 1976 (all occurring in the 1990s, during the governorship of Tom Ridge). In February 2015, Governor Tom Wolf announced a formal moratorium on executions that is still in effect as of January 2021. However, capital crimes are still prosecuted for and death warrants are still issued.
Prior to 1913, hanging was the common method of execution.In 1834, Pennsylvania became the first state in the union to eradicate public hangings. For the following decades, each county throughout the state was in charge of carrying out private hangings within their jails. 1915 saw the first use of the electric chair, two years after it was approved by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1913. The delay was due to the time needed to finish the Western Penitentiary in Centre County, now the State Correctional Institution – Rockview. From 1915 to 1962, 350 people were executed by electric chair. Most of these defendants were men, but two of them were women.
A total of 1,043 people have been executed in Pennsylvania since 1693.As of 2002 this was the 3rd highest of any other state or commonwealth in the Union, after New York (1,130) and Virginia (1,361).
Since 1978, there have been nearly 25,000 homicides throughout the state of Pennsylvania, where 408 of these homicides ended in defendants being put on death row which amounts to 1.6 death sentences to every 100 homicides.
The former Governor of Pennsylvania, Robert Casey, signed a bill in 1990 that changed the method of execution from electrocution to lethal injection.
In 2015, the state of Pennsylvania spent about $46 million annually on the death penalty to maintain the prisoners housed on death row, as well as carrying out any executions. The average price to house and take care of a death row inmate per year was about $42,000.With concerns over the cost of the death penalty growing, Governor Tom Wolf requested a cost-benefit analysis.
In February 2015, Governor Wolf announced a moratorium on executions that is still in effect as of January 2020.However, capital crimes are still prosecuted and death warrants are still executed. Wolf stated, "In no way does this mean sympathy for those guilty on death row." In justifying the moratorium, Wolf asserted as concerns that the system claims innocent lives, is not a deterrent to crime, is racially biased, costs a lot of money, and disregards mental illness in the US.
The death penalty is only applied when a defendant is guilty of first-degree murder. A separate hearing must take place for this defendant to be put on death row. If one of the ten aggravating circumstances listed in Pennsylvania law and none of the eight mitigating factors are found to be involved in the case, the verdict is death for the defendant.
When the prosecution seeks the death penalty, the sentence is decided by the jury and must be unanimous.
In case of a hung jury during the penalty phase of the trial, a life sentence is issued, even if a single juror opposed death (there is no retrial).
A death sentence has to be affirmed by the state Supreme Court. If it is affirmed, the governor of the state must sign off on the death sentence. This is a signed document known as the 'Governor's Warrant'.
State constitutional provisions require a unanimous vote of the Pardons Board to permanently change any life or death sentence before the governor can commute it.
First-degree murder can be punished by death in Pennsylvania if it involves one of the following aggravating factors:
The execution chamber of the State of Pennsylvania is on the grounds of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections State Correctional Institution – Rockview. Most male death row inmates are housed in State Correctional Institution – Greene, As of 2015 [update] , 80% of all Pennsylvania death row inmates were held at Greene. While there are no female capital case inmates at this time, any female death row inmates would be housed at the State Correctional Institution – Muncy. Prior to its closure, State Correctional Institution – Graterford housed male death row inmates.while some are housed at State Correctional Institution – Phoenix.
As of April 2021, 115 people were on Pennsylvania's death row.All of these inmates are male.
74% of inmates in Pennsylvania who are on death row have been on it for more than 10 years.Some inmates who were facing death row have received re-trials or different sentencing strategies due to Governor Wolf's moratorium.
Pennsylvania has only executed three inmates since 1976. The first was Keith Zettlemoyer in May 1995, followed by Leon Moser in August 1995. The third and most recent execution was carried out in July 1999, with the execution of Gary M. Heidnik. All three executions were consensual, with the inmates dropping their right to appeals. This makes the state of Pennsylvania one of the least active states involving the death penalty to still retain it. Even so, Pennsylvania is one of the states with the highest number of housed death row inmates.
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the U.S. state of Louisiana.
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the U.S. state of Indiana. The last man executed in the state, excluding federal executions at Terre Haute, was the murderer Matthew Wrinkles in 2009.
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the U.S. state of California. As of March 2019, further executions are halted by an official moratorium ordered by Governor Gavin Newsom. Prior to the moratorium, executions were frozen by a federal court order since 2006, and the litigation resulting in the court order has been on hold since the enactment of the moratorium. Thus, there will be a court-ordered moratorium on executions after the termination of Newsom's moratorium if the death penalty exists in California by then.
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the U.S. state of Nevada.
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the U.S. state of Ohio. All executions, however, have been suspended indefinitely by Governor Mike DeWine, and lethal injection will no longer be used as a method of capital punishment. DeWine has suspended all executions until a new method of execution is chosen. That, however, does not seem to be a legislative priority, and as a result, there are likely to be no more executions in the state of Ohio for a long time. The last execution in the state was in July 2018, when Robert J. Van Hook was executed via lethal injection for murder.
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the U.S. state of Utah.
Capital punishment in the state of Washington was abolished on October 11, 2018 when the state Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional as applied. On September 10, 2010, Cal Coburn Brown became the last person to be executed in the Washington State before it was abolished in 2018.
Capital punishment was abolished via the legislative process on May 2, 2013 in the U.S. state of Maryland.
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the U.S. state of Oklahoma.
Capital punishment in Connecticut formerly existed as an available sanction for a criminal defendant upon conviction for the commission of a capital offense. Since the 1976 United States Supreme Court decision in Gregg v. Georgia until Connecticut repealed capital punishment in 2012, Connecticut had only executed one person, Michael Bruce Ross in 2005. Initially, the 2012 law allowed executions to proceed for those still on death row and convicted under the previous law, but on August 13, 2015, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that applying the death penalty only for past cases was unconstitutional.
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the U.S. state of Alabama.
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the U.S. state of South Dakota.
Capital punishment was abolished in Colorado in 2020. It was legal from 1974 until 2020 prior to it being abolished. All valid death sentences as of 2020 have since been commuted to life sentences by governor Jared Polis.
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the U.S. state of Florida.
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the U.S. state of North Carolina.
Capital punishment is currently a legal penalty in the U.S. state of Kansas, although it has not been used since 1965.
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the U.S. state of Georgia. Georgia reintroduced the death penalty in 1973 after Furman v. Georgia ruled all states' death penalty statutes unconstitutional. The first execution to take place afterwards occurred in 1983.
Capital punishment in Delaware was legal prior to it being declared unconstitutional by the Delaware Supreme Court on August 2, 2016. The ruling will retroactively apply to earlier death sentences. Today, capital punishment is no longer applied in the state. Despite this ruling, the capital statute for first-degree murder under Title 11, Chapter 42, Section 09 of the Delaware Code has yet to be repealed.
Capital punishment is a legal punishment in Tennessee.
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the U.S. state of Missouri.