Thursday, May 05, 2005

CPADP Press Release: Lebanon County DA race

May 4, 2005


CPADP raises concerns over Lebanon County DA candidate

Harrisburg- In a rare foray into electoral politics, local anti-death penalty activists today blasted Lebanon County District Attorney candidate Dave Arnold for his exchange with current DA Deirdre Eshleman over the death penalty at a Republican primary candidate forum Monday night.

During the dialogue, Arnold referred to “brutal murderers who have no value to society”, as reported by both the Patriot News and the Lebanon Daily News. Meanwhile, Arnold is the assistant defense counsel for Ralph Deitzler, who is accused of murdering his girlfriend. The trial started this week.

“As Ms. Eshleman correctly pointed out, it is indeed troubling that Mr. Arnold would call for increased use of the death penalty and would characterize defendants in this way at the same time that he’s defending a man accused of murder,” said Andy Hoover, president of Central Pennsylvanians to Abolish the Death Penalty. “In his zeal to ascend to the DA’s office, perhaps Mr. Arnold has forgotten that his client has a right to effective assistance of counsel.

“Certainly, Mr. Arnold’s ability to assist in this case is in serious doubt.”

In the debate, which was co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters and WLBR radio, Arnold lamented the lack of capital prosecutions in the county. Of the 221 prisoners currently on Pennsylvania’s death row, three are from Lebanon County and all three were sentenced in the early to mid-1990s.

“Ms. Eshleman should be applauded for not pursuing death like a zealot, for two reasons,” Hoover said. “First, if Mr. Arnold’s conduct is any indication, the state of defense for the poor in the county must be questioned. Second, studies have consistently shown that capital cases typically cost one to two million dollars more than non-capital cases, which, of course, comes out of the taxpayers’ pockets.

“We believe in protecting society and punishing those who commit terrible crimes. That can be done without the death penalty and without bankrupting our counties.”

In March, 2003, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Committee on Racial and Gender Bias released a report calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. One of the key reasons for the moratorium recommendation was the state of effective counsel for poor defendants.

Approximately 90% of those sentenced to death in the commonwealth were too poor to afford a private attorney.

CPADP does not endorse political candidates. Instead, the group educates the public on the issue of capital punishment, which includes the positions of candidates for elected office.



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