Prosecutors, lawmakers speak against death penalty hiatus

| 06 Mar 2015 | 12:14

— Prosecutors and members of the Pennsylvania Legislature attacked Gov. Tom Wolf's decision to impose a moratorium on executions in a state that last carried out the death penalty in 1999.

A news conference in the Capitol Rotunda, led by the state district attorneys' association and about a dozen Republican lawmakers, raised criticism about the legality of the governor's moratorium and whether it was fair to the victims' families.

Trish Wertz, whose husband Scott was shot to death while working as a Reading police officer in 2006, said families are forced to wait while appeals go on and watch as death warrants are signed without any executions taking place.

“I was surprised, hurt and very disappointed" to learn of Wolf's moratorium, she said.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Ron Marsico announced plans to conduct hearings throughout the state, starting later this month in Philadelphia, where he will hear stories of murder victims.

The state Supreme Court said Tuesday it would review the legality of Wolf's decision last month to issue a reprieve to the man convicted of a 1984 slaying in Philadelphia. Wolf said he would issue reprieves while a legislative panel studies the issue, but the Philadelphia district attorney's office has argued Wolf acted illegally.

Pennsylvania has only executed three people since the U.S. Supreme Court restored the death penalty in 1976, and all three had given up on their appeals. The state currently has 182 men and three women on death row.