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Bipartisan Taskforce Will Study Death Penalty

The Pennsylvania State Senate will create a task force and advisory committee to study the capital punishment system.

In 2007, an American Bar Association panel found the system flawed, with insufficient safeguards to protect the innocent or to avoid racial and economic bias.

Senator Daylin Leach, a Democrat from Delaware and Montgomery Counties who has sponsored legislation that would repeal the death penalty, welcomed the study as a way to ascertain exactly how much the policy costs taxpayers and whether it is effective and fair.

Only three people have been executed in the past 50 years in Pennsylvania, according to Leach, all of whom asked to be executed. He says that death penalty cases cost an average of $2 million more than first-degree non-death penalty cases, so with more than 200 people on Death Row, the state is spending $800 million for virtually no executions. "It's far cheaper to put someone in prison for the rest of their lives than to put them on Death Row," said Leach.

Once a district attorney initiates a death penalty case, every stage of the process is more expensive, said Leach: court procedures, mandatory reviews, prison requirements, and attorneys.

There will be four senators appointed to the panel. The thirty members of the advisory committee will all have expertise in Pennsylvania's criminal justice system. Testimony will be accepted at public hearings, with findings and recommendations expected within two years.