The Latest: Pennsylvania court asked to toss death penalty
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Latest on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considering to end the death penalty (all times local):
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is being asked to outlaw the death penalty because of what critics call the cruel way it’s applied to black and poor defendants.
Opponents in court Wednesday say that more than half of the 441 death sentences handed down since the 1970s have been overturned. They say the Supreme Court needs to declare the system unconstitutional because lawmakers have failed to act.
Supporters say the high reversal rate means the appeals process is working.
The issue divides Democratic officials in a state that voted for President Donald Trump in 2016. Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner supports the ban while Attorney General Josh Shapiro wants the court to uphold the statute.
The court did not indicate when it would rule.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will consider whether the state’s death penalty statute amounts to cruel, arbitrary punishment that’s too often reserved for black and poor defendants.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner opposes the death penalty and is a driving force behind the court challenge. He says that two-thirds of the 155 death sentences handed down in Philadelphia over the past 40 years were later overturned on appeal.
Critics of capital punishment say that’s often because poor defendants don’t get adequate legal counsel.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and the state District Attorneys Association oppose the appeal.
Just under half of the 137 men on death row in Pennsylvania are black, compared to 11% of state residents. The death penalty remains legal in 29 U.S. states.