Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Four more years with Ed

Today Governor Ed Rendell was inaugurated for his second term here in PA. Four years ago, many of us were optimistic about the prospects for a death penalty moratorium in a Rendell administration. (Granted, after four years of the Ridge-Schweiker administration, the bar was pretty low.) During the 2002 campaign, Rendell stated that he would support a moratorium if the evidence showed that a suspension was warranted.

Six weeks later, on March 3, 2003, the PA Supreme Court Committee on Racial and Gender Bias released its report (PDF). The committee called for a moratorium on executions due to concerns with bias against minorities and the poor.

And Ed Rendell did nothing. In fact, he told ABC27 News in Harrisburg that he still had not seen the evidence for a moratorium...three weeks after the report was released.

In January, 2004, Nicholas Yarris of Philadelphia was released from prison after 22 years on death row for a crime someone else committed in Delaware County. Nick was so broken after his decades on death row that he was ready to accept execution until a DNA test saved his life.

And Ed Rendell did nothing.

In November, 2005, Harold Wilson of Philadelphia won acquittal at retrial after 16 years on death row. DNA evidence from the scene did not come from Harold or any of the victims, indicating the presence of another person, the possible assailant.

And Ed Rendell did nothing.

At some point in the next four years, it will be legacy-building time for Ed Rendell. I shook his hand at the Governor's Mansion after inaugural day 2003 and told him that something needed to be done about the death penalty. He said, "We will. I promise."

The only thing Ed Rendell has done about the death penalty is sign 63 death warrants. What will his legacy will be? When the day arrives that we ultimately end capital punishment in PA, will Ed Rendell be remembered as someone who let history pass him by? The next four years will tell.

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