Rabb, others celebrate passage in committee of bill repealing Pennsylvania’s death penalty

HARRISBURG, Nov. 1 – State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., and advocates held a news conference Tuesday to celebrate the successful bipartisan approval of his bill in the PA House Judiciary Committee that would repeal Pennsylvania’s death penalty. The action marked the first time in nearly 25 years that such legislation has been voted on in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

In 2019, Rabb held a similar news conference featuring two death row exonerees, Jimmy Dennis and Kirk Bloodsworth, when the then-majority chair of the Judiciary Committee in the PA House refused to take up this bill and when Republicans held what would be a 12-year majority, which ended earlier this year.

Rabb has reintroduced legislation (H.B. 999) that would repeal the state’s death penalty four times since taking office in 2017. His call to action comes after Gov. Josh Shapiro announced upon taking office that he would not issue any execution warrants during his term.

“One innocent life taken at the hands of the state is one too many. The fact that the state has put even one innocent person to death is simply egregious,” Rabb said. “Furthermore, the appeals process when a person is sentenced to death is long and costly, lasting decades and often resulting in their death via old age rather than lethal injection.

“The risks are grave and the injustices irreparable. Our criminal legal system is simply too fallible and biased, and the benefits too small to continue this practice.”

Should Pennsylvania enact Rabb’s legislation, it would join 23 other states that have decided to abolish the death penalty.

“Expensive and deeply flawed, vengeance-based public policy does not keep our communities safe,” Rabb said.

In attendance at the news conference were Sister Catherine Nerney, Sister Colleen Dauerbach and Sister Bethany Welch of Sisters of Saint Joseph; John Hargeaves, PA Prison Society; Kathleen Lucas, Sandra Thompson and Ryan Supler of Pennsylvanians for Alternative to the Death Penalty; Pat Egan, Maura Egan and Mark Bookman of The Atlantic Center for Capital Representation; Rob Dunham, Death Penalty Policy Project; Sean Damon and Roxanne Horrell of Amistad Law Project; and many members of the PA House of Representatives.

Rabb’s remarks in committee can be viewed here.