Rendell wants reform — or end — of Pa. death penalty

    Gov. Ed Rendell is telling lawmakers to reform Pennsylvania’s death penalty system — or end it. On the last working day of his administration, Rendell said an “endless appeal process” has made Pennsylvania’s death penalty effectively nonexistent. “Sixteen cases that I prosecuted as district attorney are on death row. I haven’t been district attorney for 25 years. It makes no sense. Again, it is not a deterrent to the criminals out on the street, because it is not a reality,” he said. There are 217 people on death row in Pennsylvania; only three have been executed since 1978, and none since 1999. Rendell said lawmakers need to figure out how to expedite the appeals process, or consider eliminating the death penalty through a constitutional amendment. “Anyone who believes that our justice system should try to get it right as much as humanly possible has to believe – has to believe – that we need a thorough appellate review,” he said. “But do we need an endless appellate review that takes 15, 20, 25, 30 years? Of course not.” Andy Hoover of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania said speeding up appeals would increase the risk of putting innocent people to death. “The governor’s suggestion that this process can somehow be streamlined and made faster just really isn’t possible,” he said, adding one Pennsylvania death row inmate, Nick Yarris, served 21 years in prison before he was exonerated through DNA evidence.

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