Wheels of Justice Turn Slowly for 220 Convicts on PA Death Row


Although Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell signed three more death warrants last week, the condemned convicts won’t be executed anytime soon, says the Associated Press. Rendell, a death-penalty supporter, has signed 113 execution warrants during his two terms, but it appears likely he will leave office in a little more than four months without seeing any of them carried out. Since Pennsylvania reinstated the death penalty in the 1970s, only three men have been put to death; all had given up their appeals. The state has about 215 men and five women awaiting execution, including 50 who were sentenced in the 1980s.

Despite the lack of executions and the continual flow of inmates sentenced to death by county courts, the number of inmates awaiting capital punishment is gradually declining, though the state’s death row remains the nation’s fourth-largest. At one point the Corrections Department housed nearly 250 condemned inmates, but their ranks have been thinned by court reversals, resentencings to life in prison, and deaths by natural causes and suicide. Rendell says he considers the death penalty a deterrent, but only when executions are carried out relatively quickly. “It’s very frustrating – it’s frustrating to the families, it’s frustrating to the police,” he said. “You can build anything in the world in three years. You should be able to have all appeals exhausted in three years.”

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