Pa. DAs push back against Krasner's case to outlaw death penalty

Jim Melwert
July 22, 2019 - 4:00 am

Andrew Kramer/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The group representing county prosecutors is pushing back against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s argument that Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court should declare the death penalty unconstitutional. 

The Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association argues Krasner isn't trying to say the death penalty statute as written is unconstitutional. 

Instead, in a filing last week, the PDAA claims Krasner wants the state Supreme Court to abolish the death penalty based largely on what, they argue, is a report commissioned by the Pennsylvania legislature filled with “biased policy arguments and misleading data.”

The PDAA also points out Krasner tried to make an argument of racial bias by looking at Philadelphia death penalty cases, but PDAA executive director Lindsay Vaughn says the data he relies on contradicts his argument.

Related: Philly DA wants Pa. Supreme Court to rule state's death penalty unconstitutional

“They drew the conclusion studying 18 counties across the commonwealth that prosecutors actually sought the death penalty at lower rates for black defendants than white defendants or Hispanic defendants,” Vaughn said. 

Bucks County DA Matt Weintraub says not every first-degree murder case carries the death penalty, as state law reserves it only for the worst of the worst.

“The district attorneys across Pennsylvania are not blood thirsty people. We apply the death penalty very judiciously, very sparingly and only when it absolutely should be applied," Weintraub said. 

The PDAA also argues the Supreme Court doesn’t have authority to decide if the death penalty should be the law. That, they say, is up to the legislature.

Oral arguments are scheduled for Sept. 11.