There was another point about the death penalty and mental retardation that I failed to make yesterday. House Bill 698 is an insult to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania. If the determination on whether or not a defendant is mentally retarded is made after conviction, the entire trial happens as if it is a capital trial, but at the end, it’s possible the person was never eligible for the death penalty, in the first place. So you’ve just held a capital trial for someone who isn’t even eligible for the death penalty. And who pays for that capital trial, which is more expensive than a non-capital trial? You, the taxpayers.
Let’s get real: The House vote this week on this issue was about trying to get as many defendants as possible caught in the death penalty net, even though 3 of every 4 Americans opposes the execution of persons with mental retardation. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is out of step with mainstream America. It is a House of Extremists.
FYI, we are quickly approaching the 30th anniversary of the Gregg v. Georgia decision, which reinstated the death penalty after a four year halt. The Abolitionist Action Committee is planning its annual four day fast and vigil outside the SCOTUS June 29-July 2. Speakers will include Ray Krone of York County, who spent 10 years in prison in Arizona for a crime someone else committed; Vicki Schieber of Murder Victims Families for Human Rights, whose daughter, Shannon, was killed when she was a student at Penn; and Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and formerly of the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project.
I’m planning to be there for Day 1, and I hope you will, too. Look for me in my “Stop Executions in Pennsylvania” t-shirt.
Andy in H-burg