HARRISBURG – Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin County), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, issued the following statement today in response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to place a moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania:
“I am sorely disappointed by the actions of Governor Wolf to issue what amounts to an unauthorized, illegal repeal of the death penalty in Pennsylvania.
“Should a person like Eric Frein, if convicted of the pre-meditated, cold-blooded murder of Pennsylvania State Police Corporal Bryon Dickson and of seriously wounding Trooper Alex Douglass, be given the chance to live?
“Should a Chester County couple, if convicted of brutally and repeatedly beating the woman’s 3-year-old son, and then leaving him to die while they had sex and went out for pizza, be given the chance to live?
“Capital punishment in Pennsylvania is imposed in only the most serious and extreme circumstances. In fact, fewer than 1 percent of murderers in Pennsylvania receive a death sentence. It is reserved for only the very worst murderers in our society – those who are beyond redemption. It is reserved for people like Eric Frein, Jillian Tait and Gary Lee Fellenbaum III.
“I have long been a supporter of a strong, fair death penalty. In the 1995 Special Session on Crime, I authored House Bill 1 which ensured that the governor must sign a death warrant within 90 days after judicial reviews end, unless a pardon is granted or the defendant’s sentence is commuted. This requirement gives finality for those the victims have left behind. The long decades of review and delay in the current system is utterly heart-breaking for the families of those killed. It prevents much-needed closure. Often lost in the discussion of capital punishment is true concern for the victims and their families.
“If the governor is now going to rely on some ambiguous power to grant an unending reprieve – effectively a full moratorium on capital punishment in Pennsylvania – I will use the power of the House Judiciary Committee to ensure the law is followed. If he wants to repeal the death penalty, he should come to the Legislature and seek that repeal. I promise, though, that I will use the power of the House Judiciary Committee to oppose any such action. The victims and the surviving families of those victimized deserve nothing less.”
Representative Ronald Marsico
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Autumn R. Southard