By Wyatt Earp | August 30, 2010
More tales of the obvious. You have a better chance of seeing me win the Pulitzer than seeing the death penalty carried out in Pennsylvania.
HARRISBURG – Last week, Gov. Rendell signed three more death warrants – for an Allegheny County man who killed his wife and teenage son nearly a decade ago, the killer of a Reading police officer, and Jerry Chambers, who is on death row for the slaying of a 3-year-old Philadelphia girl who was beaten and left to die, trapped between a bed and a radiator. Don’t expect them to be executed anytime soon.
Rendell, a death-penalty supporter, has signed 113 execution warrants during his two terms, but it appears likely he will leave office in a little more than four months without seeing any of them carried out.
Since Pennsylvania reinstated the death penalty in the 1970s, only three men have been put to death; all had given up their appeals. The state’s last contested execution occurred in 1962, even though the state currently has about 215 men and five women awaiting execution, including 50 who were sentenced in the 1980s. Despite the lack of executions and the continual flow of inmates sentenced to death by county courts, the number of inmates awaiting capital punishment is gradually declining, though the state’s death row remains the nation’s fourth-largest.
There are two things worth noting in this article. First, the writer proclaims Ed Rendell “a death penalty supporter.” That is criminally misleading. Rendell considers himself tough on crime, but the reality is that he signed those death warrants knowing full well that they would never be carried out. I’ve lived under this man’s reign for eighteen years and I can tell you from experience that he is no friend of the police and no fan of the death penalty. Ed Rendell is a fan of Ed Rendell, and he is all about maintaining his good public image. Signing death warrants accomplishes that mission.
Second, the death penalty is not a deterrent if it is never carried out. Rendell is correct there. In Pennsylvania, you can kill as many people as you want, content in the knowledge that you will live a long life at the expense of the state. Start putting needles into people’s arms and see how that changes criminal’s minds. Until then, you might as well put the lethal injection equipment up for sale on eBay.