- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced a moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania on Friday. Some details about his action, the reaction and the death penalty:

THE GOVERNOR’S ACTION:

Wolf said the moratorium will be in effect at least until he receives the results of a legislative study on the topic. He called the current system of capital punishment “error prone, expensive and anything but infallible.”

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REACTION FROM PROSECUTORS:

The state prosecutors’ association said the governor had no authority to impose such a moratorium, and said some sort of legal response was likely.

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PENNSYLVANIA’S DEATH ROW:

The state currently has 183 men and three women on death row. The most recent addition is Raghunandan Yandamuri, who was sentenced in November for killing a 10-month-old baby and her grandmother in a botched ransom kidnapping.

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NOTABLE DEATH ROW INMATES:

Among the condemned are George Banks, who killed 13 people, including five of his children, in 1982; Richard Baumhammers, who was convicted of killing five people in a 2000 shooting rampage that targeted ethnic minorities; John Lesko and Michael Travaglia, who killed a rookie police officer and three other people during an 1980 “kill for thrill” spree; and Mark Spotz, who shot his brother to death after an argument over a gerbil in 1995 and then went on to kill three women on successive days.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted in the 1981 killing a Philadelphia police officer, was on death row for three decades in a case that drew international attention. He is now serving life without parole after his death sentence was thrown out.

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RECENT HISTORY OF EXECUTIONS:

Pennsylvania has executed three people since the U.S. Supreme Court revived the death penalty, each of whom had given up on his appeals. Gary Heidnik, one of the inspirations for the Buffalo Bill character in “The Silence of the Lambs,” was executed in 1999 for killing two women he had imprisoned in his Philadelphia home. Leon Moser was executed in 1995 for the 1985 murders of his wife and two daughters in suburban Philadelphia. Keith Zettlemoyer was executed in 1995 for the 1980 killing of a friend who planned to testify against him.

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WHY PENNSYLVANIA HAS HAD FEW EXECUTIONS:

Some say there is opposition to the death penalty among judges on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or attribute it to aggressive tactics by lawyers who defend people facing execution. Others argue death sentences are overturned because of problems in how those cases are handled, and that capital defendants often do not receive adequate representation at trial.

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DEATH ROW IN THE UNITED STATES:

The Death Penalty Information Center says there are currently 3,054 people awaiting execution across the country. Thirty-two states have the death penalty, while 18 states and Washington, D.C., prohibit it. Thirty-five people were executed in the U.S. last year.

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