Speaker evaluates unfair death penalty sentencing

By Alyssa Davies
October 1, 2009

Shannon Keough

Many of the convicted are unfairly sentenced to the death penalty because of lack of evidence, racial scrutiny, or because of trigger-happy District Attorneys who jump the gun.

“Justice is supposed to be fair,” Jamie Graham, board representative for Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to Death Penalty, said in his speech, “Lobbying for Life,” on Sept. 23.

He along with many others joined the PADP in a movement to defend the convicted and end capital punishment in Pennsylvania.

According to a recent study, the state pays about two to three million dollars per capital case.

Much of this burden could be avoided if it weren’t for the fact that more than 90 percent of Pennsylvania’s death row prisoners were too poor to afford an attorney for their initial trial.

A court appointed attorney only receives an estimated $5 to $6 thousand per case. With little money to conduct the proper research, valuable evidence could be missed.

“There is a chance an innocent person will slip through the cracks,” Graham said.

Pennsylvania alone has the largest percentage of minorities on death row. With death row consists of over 200 prisoners, around 70 percent of them being of color. Independent research has also shown that African-Americans in Philadelphia were 3.9 times more likely to get the death penalty than other defendants committed of similar charges.

Adding to the disadvantages is District Attorney, Lynne Abraham. “America’s deadliest District Attorney” as many have come to know her by, is a huge supporter of the death penalty.

Using it in several cases has deducted a grand amount of money from the law enforcement budget. The extent of the damage is unknown due to the fact that they don’t keep the figures.

“What the public official may spend in their own department is actually a public matter,” Graham said.

In his speech he voiced concern for the fact that too much money is being spent by the DA and she’s done nothing to keep track of it.

The PADP has been fighting their cause since 1997 and hope to further expand their supporters.

They are requesting that all supporters sign a petition or resolution and send letters to your local representatives in hopes that, with enough support, their cause will bring more notice to what they believe is unjust.

So far, Pennsylvania has nearly 200 resolutions and hopes to just keep building.

“I’m personally against the death penalty so I plan to join Jamie’s team,” said Rosie Doyle, freshman criminal justice major, said.

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Alyssa Davies

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