Was anybody surprised last week when a prisoner execution in Pennsylvania was stayed just a few hours before its scheduled time?
A federal appeals court prevented the lethal-injection execution of Hubert Lester Michael Jr., convicted of shooting to death a teen girl in 1993.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia stepped in and sent the case back to a district court judge for additional proceedings.
That ruling reversed two federal judges in Harrisburg who had refused to delay the scheduled execution.
Pennsylvania has put to death only three inmates in the past 50 years, and all of them – unlike Michael – had given up on their appeals.
Pennsylvania has just over 200 people on death row, the fourth most of any state after California, Texas and Florida. Why the lack of executions?
Prosecutors claim an anti-death penalty bias on the part of appeals judges, while defense attorneys note many of the sentences have been proved to be flawed and overturned on legitimate legal grounds.
While we long have supported capital punishment in Pennsylvania, we believe it is past time for the entire process to be put on hold and reviewed by the Legislature and the courts.
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