Thursday, January 19, 2006

DAs want to continue executing the mentally retarded

This action alert came in on Tuesday from Central Pennsylvanians to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Dear friends,

It has been more than three years since the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the execution of the mentally retarded in the Atkins v. Virginia decision. In that decision, the court left the details of how this horrendous act would be stopped to the states, and Pennsylvania's legislature has yet to act.

Last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court chastised the General Assembly for failing to implement legislation on this issue, and our friends who work at the capitol expect the legislature to act when it returns to session next week.

While the PA Supreme Court defined mental retardation using definitions from two MR advocacy groups, there are two key questions remaining: Who determines retardation and when is that determination made. There are two bills in both chambers of the legislature that address these questions. Senate Bill 631 and House Bill 1410 mandate that the determination on MR is made before trial by the judge, and this legislation is supported by advocates for the mentally retarded, church groups, and civil libertarians. Senate Bill 334 and House Bill 698 require the MR determination be made by the jury after it has convicted the defendant, and these bills are supported by the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.

Now is the time to meet with your legislators, call them, and/or write letters and ask them to vote for justice. It is time to end this horrid practice once and for all. Below are two lists. One is legislators from central Pennsylvania that we are focusing on, and the other list is judiciary committee members from the two chambers whose stance on the legislation is unknown.

For those of you outside of central PA and not represented by these judiciary committee members, it cannot hurt to contact your legislators.

The legislators need educated on this issue. At the beginning of the session when these four bills were introduced, some lawmakers signed on to co-sponsor both bills in their respective chamber, not realizing the difference between them.

Central Pennsylvanians to Abolish the Death Penalty has a brochure available on its website, which is at this link. If you are not able to download or copy this brochure but would like to use it, contact us at We have copies available.

Thank you for all that you do to oppose the death penalty! Onwards to abolition!

South Central PA legislators
Rep. Steve Nickol (R-Adams)
Bruce Smith (R-Cumberland)
Jerry Nailor (R-Cumberland)
Ron Buxton (D-Harrisburg)
Steve Stetler (D-York)
Ron Miller (R-York)
Bev Mackereth (R-York)
Mark Keller (R-Perry)

Sen. John Gordner (R-Dauphin)
David "Chip" Brightbill (R-Lebanon)
Pat Vance (R-Cumberland)

Uncertain judiciary committee members
Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) chair
Robert Jubelirer (R-Altoona)
Michael O'Pake (D-Berks)
Jane Orie (R-Allegheny)
Michael Stack (D-Philadelphia)
J. Barry Stout (D-Washington)

Rep. Jerry Birmelin (R-Monroe)
Thomas Caltagirone (D-Berks)
Craig Dally (R-Northampton)
John Evans (R-Erie)
Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny)
Michael Gerber (D-Montgomery)
Glen Grell (R-Cumberland)
Kate Harper (R-Montgomery)
Bev Mackereth (R-York)
Stephen Maitland (R-Adams)
Dennis O'Brien (R-Philadelphia) chair
Joseph Petrarca (D-Armstrong)
Don Walko (D-Allegheny)
Jewell Williams (D-Philadelphia)

You can find your legislators' contact info by visiting the website of the PA General Disassembly.


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