Pennsylvania Governor Announces Continuation of Moratorium on Executions and Calls for Legislation to Abolish the Death Penalty

On February 16, 2023, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro announced that he will continue his predecessor’s moratorium on executions and called upon the Pennsylvania General Assembly to repeal the death penalty.

At a press conference in Philadelphia, the newly-elected Shapiro explained how his position on capital punishment has evolved and how his experience as the state’s Attorney General revealed two truths about the death penalty in the Commonwealth: “The system is fallible, and the outcome is irreversible,” he said.

Shapiro promised to continue former Governor Tom Wolf’s halt on executions, stating: “When an execution warrant comes to my desk, I will sign a reprieve each and every time.” However, the governor went beyond stopping executions and pledged to work with the General Assembly to take further action: “The Commonwealth shouldn’t be in the business of putting people to death. Period. I believe that in my heart. This is a fundamental statement of morality. Of what’s right and wrong. And I believe Pennsylvania must be on the right side of this issue.”

Since 1973, there have been 11 exonerations from Pennsylvania’s death row – 5 of which occurred since 2019. During that same time, the state carried out three executions, all involving prisoners who waived their appeals, the last one occurring in 1999.