(HARRISBURG) Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) has issued the following statement on Governor Shapiro’s announcement that he will not issue any execution warrants during his term:
“Pennsylvania confronts many significant issues in criminal justice, juvenile justice, probation and parole, law enforcement, and community safety. These issues too often are boiled down to hard or soft on crime accusations. Reform is needed for Pennsylvania to be better on preventing and prosecuting crime and providing realistic avenues for recovery and rehabilitation when individuals have satisfied their debt to society.
“To achieve substantial pieces of corrective legislation, we must reconcile the public demands for tougher justice in the wake of violent crimes with expert analyses that reveal laws and policies are having unintended consequences, to the detriment of effective enforcement and efficient utilization of resources. This conflict is always evident during debates about the death penalty, a much studied and passionately argued subject.
“Current law allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty for extreme crimes involving a list of aggravating circumstances. This occurs separate from the determination of guilt. On the other side, there is a list of mitigating circumstances that can be used on behalf of defendants. Where there is a finding of the death penalty, there is an extended appeals process to ensure mistakes have not been made. A verdict of death is not capriciously arrived at.
“No matter the philosophy of the governor, very few executions are carried out in Pennsylvania. To reach agreement and action on any legislative reform in the criminal justice arena, it requires reason, balance, compromise, and consensus building across party lines and between branches of government. Any public official is free and obliged to state their goals and priorities and preferences. But public officials from either side who issue “I will always” or “I will never” statements contribute to the hardening of views, rather than providing helpful clarity, making it more difficult to move toward responsible resolution.”
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