Pennsylvania prosecutors see positive in death penalty study

Berks DA: Report debunks opponents's theory

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The association of Pennsylvania prosecutors sees some positives in a new report that found death sentences are more common when the victim is white and less common when the victim is black.

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) released a statement Monday that describes the report as a vindication of their evenhandedness in applying the death penalty.

"This report’s conclusion is clear: capital punishment in Pennsylvania is not disproportionately targeted against defendants of color," said Berks County District Attorney John Adams, who serves as the association's president. "For so long, those who have sought to abolish the death penalty have argued that the race of the defendant plays the critical role in decisions about who gets the death penalty. This report squarely debunks that theory."

"[O]ur findings are largely consistent with the notion that legally relevant factors are likely the primary factors that shape interpretations of blameworthiness and dangerousness that theoretically drive the punishment decisions we examined," the study noted.

The study by Penn State's Justice Center for Research also found the prosecution of death penalty cases varies widely among counties.

The study was produced for the Interbranch Commission for Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness.

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