Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro announced Thursday that he will not sign any execution warrants while in office and urged the General Assembly to repeal the death penalty.
“During my tenure as governor, I will not issue any execution warrants. Every time an execution warrant arrives at my desk, I will sign a reprieve “Shapiro, a Democrat, made the remarks at Mosaic Community Church in West Philadelphia, adding that the first execution warrant since he was sworn in had arrived on his desk last week.
“The Commonwealth should not be in the business of executing people. Period. That is something I firmly believe. This is a fundamental moral statement. Of what is correct and incorrect.”
Shapiro spoke alongside state legislators, community activists, and criminal justice advocates, noting that his position on the death penalty had evolved over time.
During his tenure as attorney general, Shapiro expressed support for the death penalty in the case of Robert Bowers, the suspected gunman in the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that killed 11 people. Bowers’ federal trial is set to begin in April.
Shapiro stated on Thursday that after closely examining the criminal justice system as the state’s chief law enforcement officer, he realised that “the system is fallible, and the outcome is irreversible.”
The death penalty is legal in 27 states, including Pennsylvania. The state has 101 men on death row, but there hasn’t been an execution in 24 years.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks executions across the country, before the death penalty was reinstated in Pennsylvania in 1976, the state had executed 1,040 people, the third most of any state.
According to state Corrections Department data, three executions have occurred since 1995, two in May and August of that year and a third in July 1999. All three occurred during Republican Gov. Tom Ridge’s tenure.
A number of Democratic leaders have spoken out against the death penalty, including his predecessor, former Gov. Tom Wolf, who enacted a death penalty moratorium in 2015.
Outgoing Oregon Gov. Kate Brown commuted the sentences of 17 people on death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole in December, calling the practise “immoral.”
Virginia is the state that has most recently abolished the death penalty through legislation. According to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, lawmakers instead chose a life sentence with no possibility of parole in 2021.
Under divided government, abolishing the death penalty in Pennsylvania would be a difficult task. Democrats control the state House and the governor’s mansion, while Republicans control the state Senate.