On Thursday, Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro announced that he would not grant any death warrants during his term as governor — continuing a trend set by his predecessor. He called on Pennsylvania lawmakers to pass legislation to ban the death penalty in the state.
“I will not issue any death warrants during my term as governor,” Shapiro wrote on Twitter. “When one comes to my desk, I’ll sign a repeal every time — and I’m asking the General Assembly to send me a bill to abolish the death penalty in Pennsylvania.” He added, “It’s a fundamental statement of morality. What’s right and what’s wrong. And I believe Pennsylvania will definitely be on the right side of this issue.”
Shapiro was sworn in as governor in January. During his campaign, he advocated the abolition of the death penalty, although he had previously supported the death penalty for the most “heinous crimes”.
“For more than a decade, since I took office as attorney general, I have believed that the death penalty should be reserved for the most heinous crimes — but that it was, in fact, a just punishment for those crimes,” Shapiro said in a message. Thursday press release. “However, when the first capital cases came across my desk at the AG’s office, I found myself repeatedly reluctant to seek the death penalty. When my son asked me why it was okay to kill someone as punishment for killing someone, I couldn’t” look him in the eye and explain. Why don’t you.”
The governor noted that the decision not to allow executions during his term was not a “statement of the integrity of individual capital justice in Pennsylvania.” However, he said that during his tenure as the state’s attorney general, “two critical truths about our commonwealth’s capital sentencing system have become clear to me: the system is flawed, and the results are irreversible.”
The announcement comes in the wake of growing pressure for states to abolish the death penalty altogether. Even in states like Alabama and Oklahoma, where support for the death penalty has long existed, in recent months a moratorium and a reduction in the pace of executions, respectively, have been ordered. So far, 23 states have abolished the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
This is not the first time that Pennsylvania’s governor has imposed a moratorium on executions in the state. In 2015, Shapiro’s predecessor, Gov. Tom Wolf (D), announced a formal moratorium on any future executions. Pennsylvania has not carried out the death penalty since 1999.
“Pennsylvania should do what 25 other states have outlawed or refused to impose the death penalty — including many of our neighbors like New Jersey, Maryland and West Virginia,” Shapiro said. “We shouldn’t aim to just fix the system. The Commonwealth shouldn’t be in the business of killing people. Period.”