In Pennsylvania, a Long Wait For the Death Penalty

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Five times a year, Pennsylvania corrections officials meet inside a white block masonry field house at a prison and carry out a mock execution. They escort the “inmate” to the execution chamber. They strap that person onto the gurney. Then they simulate injecting a lethal dose of drugs into his body. They perform this drill even though capital punishment in Pennsylvania remains indefinitely on hold while government officials await a report, now years in the making, analyzing capital punishment’s history, effectiveness and cost, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer-Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Harrisburg bureau. The death sentence imposed last month on Eric Frein, the survivalist who killed a State Police trooper and injured another in 2014, has reignited questions – and in some cases, criticism – about why the state has taken so long to decide whether to continue or stop, once and for all, executing criminals. Troopers say Gov. Tom Wolf should sign Frein’s death warrant.

“For us, it’s all about justice,” said Joe Kovel, president of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association. “It’s time for the moratorium to be lifted.” State Sen. Scott Wagner, a Republican hoping to unseat the governor next year, has signaled it’s an issue he’ll press on the campaign trail. Capital punishment is authorized in 31 states, but only seven have carried out executions — 31 of them — since the start of 2016. Wolf imposed a moratorium the death penalty after taking office in 2015. He argued the state should await the results of a long-awaited report by the Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Committee on Capital Punishment. The report is expected to analyze more than a dozen factors involving the death penalty, such as cost, bias and effectiveness. The study has come under fire, particularly for how long it’s taking: it was ordered by the state Senate in 2011 and was supposed to be completed by 2013.

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