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Republicans Balk At Wolf's Second Death Row Reprieve

Gov. Tom Wolf issued a temporary stay of execution on Thursday for convicted killer Hubert Lester Michael, who was set to die the next day.

It’s the governor’s second intervention since he took office. He promised in February to grant a reprieve to any inmate whose execution date comes before the results of the newly established Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Committee on Capital Punishment are published.

Wolf’s order established an effective moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania. He said in February that the current system is the result of a flawed system proven to occasionally exonerate the innocent, including six men in Pennsylvania and 150 nationwide.

Wolf said at the time, “This moratorium is in no way an expression of sympathy for the guilty on death row, all of whom have been convicted of committing heinous crimes.”

Republican leadership opposed the move. Former law enforcement officer Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery) filed House Resolution 143 condemning Wolf’s actions and insisting he “carry out his constitutional duty,” according to the filing.

Vereb said the governor is required by law to uphold Pennsylvania’s statutes regardless of his beliefs. 

"I mean obviously we want to make sure that if we're going to terminate someone's life, that we have the right person,” Vereb said. “And having 57 people all the way up to the Supreme Court review each death penalty case, we feel our system is strong."

Wolf’s decision this week postpones the death of Hubert Lester Michael, who was convicted in 1993 of raping and killing a 16-year-old girl. He never contested his guilt or the judgment. Wolf also stopped the execution of Terrance Williams, who was convicted of murder in 1984.