Pennsylvania Governor Does a 180 on Death Penalty

Democrat Josh Shapiro says he wants it abolished for good, won't sign any execution warrants
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 17, 2023 7:42 AM CST
Pennsylvania Governor: I Won't Sign Any Execution Warrants
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro is seen during a news conference in Philadelphia on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Josh Shapiro was once a supporter of the death penalty, including for the suspected gunman in the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Philadelphia in 2018. Now, the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania says his views on capital punishment have shifted, and that he won't be signing any execution warrants while he's in office. "When an execution warrant comes to my desk, I will sign a reprieve each and every time," Shapiro said Thursday at Mosaic Community Church in Philly, per NBC News. "The Commonwealth shouldn't be in the business of putting people to death."

Shapiro, who appeared alongside community activists, criminal justice advocates, and other elected leaders, including state Sens. Vincent Hughes and Nikil Saval, also noted he wants the General Assembly "to work with me" on abolishing the death penalty altogether in Pennsylvania, per a release. With more than 100 men on death row, there hasn't been an execution since 1999 in Pennsylvania, one of 27 states that allows the death penalty. Shapiro says his viewpoint on the matter changed over the past few years while he served as the state's attorney general.

"This was a matter of conscience," Shapiro tells CNN's Jake Tapper, noting he'd struggled for a while with his own internal debate as cases came across his desk as AG. "Our system is fallible, and the outcome is irreversible." Shapiro says talks with his young son and the "grace" of families of victims of the Tree of Life shooting helped him reassess his views. As for getting rid of the death penalty in Pennsylvania, Shapiro would have a tough fight at the moment, as the GOP wields control of the state Senate. (More Josh Shapiro stories.)

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