The lieutenant governor wants Pennsylvania to commute more lifers

At a speech to the commonwealth’s Press Club, John Fetterman brought special guests: two recently commuted people who were sentenced to life without parole.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. While being interviewed at a Starbucks in York, September 18, 2019. (Dan Gleiter / PennLive)

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. While being interviewed at a Starbucks in York, September 18, 2019. (Dan Gleiter / PennLive)

Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman said Monday that he has one goal for his tenure in Harrisburg that eclipses all the others: to make sure people don’t needlessly die in prison.

Fetterman oversees the commonwealth’s Board of Pardons. And since he took office, he has been attempting to try and free some of the people who are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole.

According to the state Department of Corrections, more than 5,100 people in state prisons were given that sentence. As of last summer, the department estimated about 500 hadn’t taken anyone else’s life.

That’s because in the commonwealth, any life sentence is automatically life without parole—even for second-degree murder.

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Fetterman said in recent administrations, few pardons and commutations have been made. He wants to change that.

“This is a process that has been horribly broken to the point of nonexistence, effectively, in Pennsylvania,” he said.

At his Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon speech, Fetterman yielded some of his time to two recently-commuted people—George Trudel and Naomi Blount.

Since their release, the Board of Pardons has hired both of them.

Under Fetterman, the pardons board got rid of about $65 in application fees. Fetterman said he’s now trying to spread the word to inmates that they should apply for commutation.

“This will be one of the defining things I want to accomplish,” he said. “It’s the only thing, quite frankly, from a personal standpoint.”

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