Pennsylvania Moratorium Coalition

The Pennsylvania Moratorium Coalition supports a suspension of executions in Pennsylvania while all aspects of the death penalty as currently administered in PA are reviewed and any resulting recommendations fully addressed. The Pennsylvania Moratorium Coalition is composed of diverse organizations from all across the state. Regardless of their philosophical position on the death penalty, the organizations that make up the Pennsylvania Moratorium Coalition agree that the current practice of capital punishment in Pennsylvania needs to be reviewed because it is discriminatory and does not guarantee against the possibility of a wrongful execution. Click here for a full list of PMC member organizations.

Videos from the kick-off:

PA Moratorium Coalition Kick-Off: Senator Jim Ferlo

PA Moratorium Coalition Kick-Off Senator Shirley Kitchen

PA Moratorium Coalition Kick-Off Vicki Schieber

PA Moratorium Kick-Off Dale Johnston, exoneree

PA Moratorium Coalition Kick-Off: ABA Report Urges Overhaul of state death penalty system

Op Ed by Reverend Walter Everett, published in The Daily Item, in April 2007.

It is impossible to overstate the pain and rage that I felt when my son Scott was shot to death twenty years ago. Losing a child to murder is a singular horror that I would not wish on anyone. People say all kinds of things to grieving parents in the aftermath of a loss like mine. One of the most misguided is “The death penalty will give you closure.” Its simply not true. I know it from my own experience and from the experiences of hundreds of family members of murder victims that I’ve come to know over the past twenty years. Having had my son’s life taken from me, I find no sense of peace or healing in the idea of another life being taken, and least of all in the idea of a life being taken in Scott’s name.

Due to our concern that the death penalty hurts victim’s families, Murder Victim’s Families for Human Rights has joined with 14 other organizations to form the Pennsylvania Moratorium Coalition. This diverse group of faith-based, civil rights, human rights, and legal organizations is calling for a thorough examination of how the death penalty functions in the commonwealth, accompanied by a two-year suspension of executions. The impact of the death penalty on victim’s families is one of multiple issues that could be studied by our state government.

The death penalty holds out a false and misleading promise of closure to family members of murder victims who must wait through years of appeals before an execution takes place. There’s a good reason the process takes so long: legitimate concern about the possibility of executing an innocent person. But throughout that lengthy process, families of victims are told that they will feel better once the convicted murderer is finally put to death.

What if it doesn’t happen that way? After the gurney, the injection, the last gasp of breath, the victim’s family waits for the moment when they will at last experience closure, and it doesn’t come. Almost always, their question is the same: “Why don’t I feel better?¨ The answer is clear. The execution hasn’t changed a thing in their daily lives. It has neither brought back their loved one nor helped them to cope with the loss. They have waited all these years for instant healing, and it hasn’t happened. Now, in addition to having that huge emotional vacuum in their lives, they feel as though they have been used.

Healing is not an event; it is a process, and that process could begin sooner if the family did not have to wait for a promised closure that never comes. A life sentence, or even a sentence of very many years, lets a victim’s family put the legal case to rest and begin the long and difficult process of rebuilding their lives.

If we really want to help families of victims, we can do it far more effectively by taking the millions of dollars now spent on the lengthy death penalty process and using it to provide counseling and other assistance. We could use that money to support programs and efforts that prevent violence. The real way to honor victims is not with more killing, but with focused and committed efforts stop creating more victims.

We know by now that the death penalty in Pennsylvania is poor public policy. It is not a deterrent to future crime, it is far more costly than life imprisonment, and it is often imposed unfairly and arbitrarily, not on the worst of the worst, but rather on the poorest of the poor. These are all good reasons to reconsider the death penalty in our commonwealth. And helping the families of victims is another benefit.