Pennsylvania's new governor blows it on the death penalty

Democrat Pennsylvania governor Josh Shapiro has said he will not sign any execution warrants while he is governor.  He even called for the Pennsylvania Legislature to abolish the death penalty.

Never say never, governor.  There are exceptions to every rule.  In this case, some people deserve the death penalty.

The responsibility of the government to determine who lives and who dies in capital crimes should never be taken lightly.  Innocent people have been imprisoned and, perhaps, executed.  However, the justice system in the United States, although it can move slowly, has lots of checks and balances, and that allows for plenty of time for innocent people to prove their innocence.

However, there are people on death row who deserve to be there — men and women with records showing they are unrepentant criminals, who committed an act heinous enough that multiple courts and juries have decided that these people do not deserve to live.

In Pennsylvania, Shapiro has now given more than 100 prisoners on death row, some of whom murdered police officers and children, something their victims they didn't have: hope.

In Pennsylvania, the law requires the governor to sign an execution warrant before an inmate can be put to death, and Shapiro said he would not be doing that during his time in office.  He said he believes that it is immoral.  This is contradictory on a couple of levels

As a prosecutor and attorney general, Shapiro supported the death penalty.  "For more than a decade, including when I assumed office as Attorney General, I believed that the death penalty should be reserved for the most heinous crimes — but that it was, indeed, a just punishment for those crimes," he said.

He went on to say that his position evolved.  He tried to tie the evolution to his question of what is moral or not, but it also happened to coincide with his goal to become a Democrat governor.  A pro–death penalty candidate would not have been on the Democrat ticket.

He told anecdotes to support his position, ignoring the fact that for every person who didn't want to see the murderer of a loved one executed, there was another person who did.  In some cases, it might even be the same murderer.

He touted the exceptions while promising actions on his part that would ignore exceptions.

Republican Pennsylvania state rep. Aaron Bernstine told the Daily Caller News Foundation, "I strongly believe that capital punishment should be an option for prosecutors reserved for the most violent offenders, particularly those who have committed crimes against children."  This was a position Shapiro himself had until he decided to run for governor.

What Shapiro should be saying is that he will review each case on its own merits.  Perhaps he will find a reason to believe that there is a slight possibility that someone isn't guilty.  In such a case, that person could be spared death and remain imprisoned, just in case his innocence is irrefutably established later, at which point he could be freed.

But in the cases of unrepentant criminals, proven guilty well beyond the shadow of a doubt, allow the will of the state to be carried out.

In giving a flat-out "no," Shapiro is saying that some victims matter more than others, and convicted killers matter more than the victims.

Never say never, governor.

Michael A. Letts is the CEO and founder of In-VestUSA, a national grassroots non-profit organization helping hundreds of communities provide thousands of bulletproof vests for their police forces through educational, public relations, sponsorship, and fundraising programs. 

Image: Josh Shapiro.  Credit: Governor Tom Wolf via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

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