Governor Ed Rendell says lawmakers should either reform or end Pennsylvania’s death penalty system.
On the last working day of his administration, Rendell said an “endless appeal process” has made Pennsylvania’s death penalty effectively nonexistent.
"16 cases that I prosecuted as district attorney are on death row. I haven’t been district attorney for 25 years. It makes no sense. Again, it is not a deterrent to the criminals out on the street, because it is not a reality."
There are 217 people on death row, but only three have been executed since 1978, and none since 1999. Rendell says lawmakers need to figure out how to expedite the appeals process, or consider eliminating the death penalty through a constitutional amendment.
Andy Hoover of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania says Rendell is wrong...
"The governor’s suggestion that this process can somehow be streamlined and made faster just really isn’t possible. Because then you increase the risk of executing an innocent person."
Hoover points out one Pennsylvania death row inmate, Nick Yarris, served 21 years in prison before he was exonerated through DNA evidence.
Richard Long, the executive director of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, says Rendell is right to be frustrated – but he says ending the death penalty isn’t the answer.
"We continue to talk extensively within our group about what can be done to make the death penalty a real death penalty, and an effective deterrent."
Since 1978, three people have been executed in Pennsylvania. Rendell's successor, Tom Corbett, who will be inaugurated as governor Tuesday, supports capital punishment,