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Does Pennsylvania still have a death penalty?

On Behalf of | Aug 30, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

Most American states have a death penalty in place. Despite efforts to overthrow this in Pennsylvania, it remains a supporter. Many jurisdictions around the world have outlawed this practice for centuries as inhumane. You may have also come to the conclusion that it is time for the practice to end.

According to NBC Philadelphia, in 2019, two death row inmates attempted to overturn the death penalty by making a case that it was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court upheld the death penalty and rejected the petition. So, unfortunately, Pennsylvania does still have a death penalty in place.

Minorities disproportionately represented

Several studies have already shown that minorities are often over-policed in communities and over-represented among prison populations. However, they also make up a big majority of the death row population in the state:

  • In Philadelphia, 91% of death row inmates are non-White minorities.
  • In Philadelphia, 80% of death row inmates are Black men.
  • In Philadelphia, when inmates appeal after conviction, courts overturn capital punishment in 72% of cases.

One contributing factor NBC Philadelphia identified is that most minorities, especially Black men, received representation from court-appointed attorneys. It stated that these professionals were inadequately supported and under-compensated.

The road ahead

If you feel discouraged by the Supreme Court’s ruling, know that the fight is not yet over. People who oppose capital punishment remain committed to rooting it out of the system, especially because it primarily targets men of color. The court also left some leeway to revisit individual cases and determine if revising the capital punishment sentencing might prove fairer.

You may also appreciate yet another silver lining. Pennsylvania has not executed anyone since 1999. In fact, between 1978 and 1999, the state followed through with three executions.