Pennsylvania, I’d like to wish you an Unhappy 100th. Yesterday, you reached a noteworthy milestone in your tireless quest to kill your citizens. David Ramtahal was resentenced to life without the possibility of parole AFTER being sentenced to death. He became just the latest example of one of the many problems with capital punishment in the Commonwealth.
Pennsylvania, it seems you just can’t get it right, and the appeals court drives that point home, and does so frequently. Your district attorneys keep seeking the death penalty and Â their performance in front of hapless juries is worthy of a Tony or two. At least juries were gullible for a while. They seem to be wising up to your chicanery.
You see, juries are returning death sentences less often. Some of your DAs have caught on to this and seek the death penalty less often. Or maybe the DAs are a bit hesitant to push for death. Could it be that the Â steadily growing number of innocent people found on the row is keeping them awake at night? What is it, 142 and counting in the US? It’s so hard to keep track of them all, I know.
Maybe your DAs are now able to acknowledge the arbitrariness and racism of the system. Or are they squirming, just a bit, remembering the times that mitigating evidence was never presented to the jury, either because there wasn’t a mitigation specialist or because mitigating evidence was deliberately kept from the defense? Surely you remember the spanking Judge Sarmina handed down in the Terry Williams case. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s too embarrassing when judges, 100 times as of yesterday, keep pointing out the inconvenient truth that there are serious problems with the whole damn thing.
To be fair, Pennsylvania, it’s not just prosecutors that make you look bad, especially to your neighbors who’ve abolished the death penalty. There’s also the junk science, police misconduct, relying on jail house snitches (a notoriously unreliable bunch)… I could go on, but the American Bar Association pointed all of that out in its Evaluating Fairness and Accuracy in State Death Penalty Systems: The Pennsylvania Death Penalty Assessment Report, published in October of 1997.
So, Unhappy 100th PA! If I’d had more time, I’d have baked a cake.