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Politics & Government

Death Penalty Task Force Could Work Into Next Year

The legislative task force studying the state's death penalty is once again pushing back its deadline.

The panel was supposed to finish its work in December 2013, but it has repeatedly extended its timeline. Now, the agency putting together a final report says it might need until next year.

Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) serves on the task force, which he said has taken on an unprecedented amount of research.

"There's nothing like this," said Leach. "This will be a very comprehensive study and you know we will get a sense of what the taxpayers are getting for their billions of dollars they're spending to have a death penalty in Pennsylvania."

Gov. Tom Wolf's effective moratorium has put a spotlight on the task force's findings and recommendations. When Wolf announced the moratorium on the death penalty in mid-February, he said it would last at least until the task force issued its recommendations.

"I am concerned about the timeline," said Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery), a critic of Wolf's move to bar executions. He also pointed out that members of his House GOP caucus are worried their views won't be considered. The task force is made up of four senators - two from each party. An advisory commission represents different views relevant to the capital punishment in Pennsylvania, such as prosecutors, defense lawyers, and criminal justice experts.

Wolf's moratorium is being challenged in court by Philadelphia's district attorney, who has said it's unconstitutional. The state Supreme Court will consider the case.