Contributed by Lisa Bergson.
Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that fails to provide funding for the defense of poor defendants, who comprise over 80% of those accused. Pennsylvania cedes this obligation to the counties, leading to a big disparity – in fact, the largest in the U.S. – of capital sentences from county-to-county. The result is a haphazard and inconsistent patchwork of attorney appointment protocols, literally playing Russian Roulette with defendants’ lives.
Executing those denied fair and proper representation is tantamount to state-sponsored murder. In February, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a friend-of-the court brief, asking the state Supreme Court to hold the state’s capital punishment system in violation of the Pennsylvania constitution.
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