Capital Sentencing: The Effect of Adding Aggravators to Death Penalty Statutes in Pennsylvania

Sandra Schultz Newman, Eric Rayz, Scott Eric Friedman

Abstract


The birthplace of the American republic—the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania—has historically been at the forefront of the capital punishment legislation in the United States. It was the first colony in the Union to abolish the death penalty for all crimes with the exception of murder. It was the first to set forth a statutory distinction between different degrees of criminal homicide, confining imposition of capital punishment to the most chilling form of this crime—“willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing.” With this storied history in mind, we have undertaken the task of examining the current state of the death penalty in the Commonwealth. Hence, in Part II of this Article, we set forth a detailed history of the capital sentencing scheme in Pennsylvania. Part III undertakes a statistical study of the imposition of the death penalty in the Commonwealth from 1978 until 1997. In Part IV, we conclude by summing up our general observations.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/lawreview.2004.11

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ISSN 0041-9915 (print) 1942-8405 (online)