Gov. Wolf Tuesday asked the state Supreme Court to ignore Attorney General Kathleen Kane's challenge to his death-penalty moratorium, arguing that the justices already have decided to consider a similar petition brought by the Philadelphia District Attorney.
In a court filing that responds to Kane's petition, Wolf also repeated the claim he's made since February: That he has the right under the state Constitution to stay executions as he awaits a Senate report on capital punishment.
The death-penalty issue has presented yet another challenge to Wolf, this time from members of his own party, as he tries to carry out a sweeping agenda that sharply contrast with that of his Republican predecessor.
The 1st-year governor is in a protracted fight with Republicans over his budget, now 3 weeks overdue. He's also tangling with the GOP in the state's courts over the director of Pennsylvania's Office of Open Records, Erik Arneson, whom Wolf fired in January.
The state's Commonwealth Court reinstated Arneson last month, saying the governor had overstepped his authority. Wolf is appealing the case to the Supreme Court.
Kane filed her petition before the state high court on July 6, asking the justices to allow the execution of Hubert L. Michael Jr., a York County man who confessed to murdering a teenager two decades ago. Kane, a Democrat, said Wolf abused his powers, ignoring state law and a jury's verdict when he issued temporary reprieve to the killer.
Philadelphia DA Seth Williams, also a Democrat, made an almost identical argument in February regarding Terry Williams, who was sentenced to die in 1984 for the killing of Amos Norwood, a Germantown church volunteer. The state Supreme Court decided in March to review the DA's petition, scheduling a Sept. 10 hearing.
Responding to Kane on Tuesday, Wolf's attorneys argued that "judicial economy would be frustrated by requiring the parties to submit redundant briefing each time a prosecutor challenges a gubernatorial reprieve."
Currently 186 people are on death row in Pennsylvania. But only 3 have been executed since Pennsylvania reinstated capital punishment in 1978 - 2 in 1995, the the 3rd in 1999. All 3 had ended their appeals and asked to be executed.
A month after taking office, Wolf issued his moratorium, which he said would continue until after he gets the report of a task force studying the future of capital punishment.
"This decision is based on a flawed system that has been proven to be an endless cycle of court proceedings as well as ineffective, unjust, and expensive," Wolf said in February.
Source: philly.com, July 21, 2015
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