7 from Berks on death row as court asked to outlaw penalty

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Seven convicted killers from Berks County are among 137 prisoners -- all men -- presently occupying a cell on Pennsylvania's death row.

They await their sentence as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considers a request to outlaw the state's death penalty because of what critics call the cruel way it's applied to black and poor defendants.

Opponents in court Wednesday said that more than half of the 441 death sentences handed down since the 1970s have been overturned. They said the Supreme Court needs to declare the system unconstitutional because lawmakers have failed to act.

Supporters said the high reversal rate means the appeals process is working.

The court did not indicate when it would rule.

Berks County's death row inmates are:

  • Richard Boxley, sentenced on Oct. 27, 2000, for the murder of Jason Bolton in Reading in 1997. He is incarcerated at SCI Phoenix in Montgomery County;
  • Jose Busanet, sentenced on March 22, 1999, for the murder of Jason Bolton in Reading in 1997. He is incarcerated at SCI Greene in Greene County;
  • Randy Haag, sentenced on Sept. 25, 1987, for the murder of Richard Good in 1982. He is incarcerated at SCI Greene;
  • Glenn Lyons, sentenced on July 15, 2011, for the murder of Kathy Leibig in South Heidelberg Township in 2008. He is incarcerated at SCI Greene;
  • Albert Perez, sentenced on May 27, 2009, for the murders of his ex-girlfriend, Duceliz Diaz, and her five-year-old daughter, Kayla, in Bernville in 2007. He is incarcerated at SCI Phoenix;
  • Michael Pruitt, sentenced on May 3, 2005, for the murder of Greta Gougler in Reading in 2002. He is incarcerated at SCI Greene;
  • Cletus Rivera, sentenced on Aug. 14, 2008, for the murder of Reading police Ofc. Scott Wertz in 2006. He is incarcerated at SCI Greene.

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