Sunday, December 12, 2004


Facts about capital punishment in Pennsylvania

UNDATED Facts about the death penalty in Pennsylvania:
LAST PRISONER EXECUTED: Philadelphia torture-killer Gary Heidnik, July 6, 1999.

OTHER RECENT EXECUTIONS: Leon Moser, Aug. 16, 1995, for the shooting deaths of his wife and two daughters near Philadelphia, and Keith Zettlemoyer, May 2, 1995, for killing a friend who planned to testify against him in a criminal trial.

DEATH WARRANTS: Since taking office in January 2003, Gov. Ed Rendell has issued 26 execution warrants. Former Gov. Tom Ridge, signed 220 during his nearly seven-year tenure.

EXECUTION EVOLUTION: In 1834, Pennsylvania became first state to abolish public hangings, execution method of choice since colonial days. For decades afterward, counties hanged prisoners inside county jails. In 1913, state assumed responsibility for executions and electric chair replaced gallows. From 1915 to 1962, 350 people were electrocuted at Rockview State Prison. Method was changed to lethal injection in 1990.

THE ROW: As of Tuesday, 233 inmates awaited execution in Pennsylvania --nation's fourth-largest death row, behind California, Texas, Florida. Condemned men in Pennsylvania are held in state prisons at Greene and Graterford; women await execution at Muncy State Prison.

NATIONAL VIEW: Pennsylvania is one of 38 states with a death penalty, and one of 32 that have executed prisoners since 1976, but it ranks 24th in terms of number of actual executions. Texas, which has carried out 336 executions, is first.

WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS: Since 1986, seven men sentenced to death in Pennsylvania have been released from death row because of new evidence, including DNA, clearing them of capital crimes.

Sources: Pennsylvania Department of Corrections; Death Penalty Information Center, Washington.