A legal battle over Governor Tom Wolf’s seven-month-old death penalty moratorium lands in Pennsylvania’s state’s Supreme Court Thursday.
The court’s ruling could disrupt Wolf’s plans to continue issuing reprieves to death row inmates — at least until a task force finishes studying capital punishment in Pennsylvania.
The governor’s first reprieve came in February for inmate Terrance Williams, sentenced to death for killing a man in 1984.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s office said reprieves can’t be open-ended rulings absent any consideration of the inmate, but the governor said his actions are supported by the constitution and history.
Bruce Ledewitz, a professor at Duquesne University School of Law, has said case law requires a reprieve to be for a definite time and purpose. “The question is whether the reprieve has something to do with the particular prisoner who gets the reprieve,” he said.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Philadelphia.