|Page 2 LEPOCO Newsletter / November 2018|
The Lehigh Valley Committee Against State Killing (L.V.-CASK) was formed as a LEPOCO Working Group in 1996. Since its founding, members of CASK have participated in rallies against capital punishment on the steps of the state capital and local courthouses, personally lobbied state senators and representatives, both in Harrisburg and at their local offices, been pre-sent at legislative hearings on abolishing the death penalty, hosted former death row inmates as speakers throughout the Lehigh Valley, attended national con-ferences and training sessions on the issue, written numerous letters to the editor opposing capital punish-ment, and maintained a clipping file on the issue gleaned from local, national and international publica-tions.
When L.V.-CASK was founded, Governor Thomas Ridge was signing a flurry of death warrants and Pennsylvania had the fourth largest death row in the nation. The death penalty was an election issue that candidates for public office would use to show their support for fighting crime and while most religious groups had taken positions against capital punishment, there were no studies done of its cost, effectiveness, fairness, or its wrongful convictions.
While Pennsylvania still has the Death Penalty on the books there have been many positive developments over the past twenty years. Pennsylvania now has three studies which present the problems with the Death Penalty, the “Final Report of the PA State Supreme Court Committee on Racial and Gender Bias in the Criminal Justice System” (2001), The American Bar Association, “PA Death Penalty Assessment Report” (2007), and the “Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission Task Force and Advisory Committee: Capital Punishment in Pennsylvania” (2017).
Pennsylvania has had only three executions since the death penalty was reinstated, all of which only occurred when the appeal process was waved at the request of the inmate. Pennsylvania has not had an execution since 1999 and the current governor has indicated that he will not sign death warrants under the current system. Pennsylvania’s death row has greatly diminished with numerous death sentences overturned through the outstanding work of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation in Philadelphia. Six persons who had been sentenced to death in Pennsylvania have been exonerated and released, proving false the common assumption that the death penalty is flawless.
While those of us who have been involved with CASK would like to be able to say that our work is done because the death penalty is abolished in Pennsylvania we must admit that there is still more work to be done until that day comes to pass. We must also admit that this work is beyond the ability of our small group of stalwart members to complete. With the possibility of executions during the next few years close to null, our committee has decided that L.V.-CASK will suspend holding meetings and planning events for the foreseeable future. We hope that the work we have done has in some small way, helped bring us closer to the day when Pennsylvania has removed this useless, expensive, unfair, barbaric and cruel punishment from its books. If you have questions or concerns about this decision please talk with members of the committee of contact that LEPOCO Office.
– David Rose