Prosecutors stake opposite positions in death penalty appeal

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Philadelphia's top prosecutor and the state district attorneys' association are staking out opposing positions in a case to determine if Pennsylvania's death penalty will remain in effect.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said Tuesday his own review found the state's death penalty runs afoul of the prohibition on cruel punishment and disproportionately applies to black defendants and the poor.

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association also filed a brief with the state Supreme Court, saying the justices should respect the Legislature's role in establishing state law.

"Additionally, the brief emphasizes the findings of a 2017 study by Penn State University researchers for the Pennsylvania Interbranch Commission for Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness, which found there is no racial bias in prosecutors' decisions or against defendants who receive death penalty sentences," the association said in a statement on its website. "The findings of that report are in direct contrast to the racial-bias narrative pushed by anti-death penalty advocates."

The association cited Jacob Sullivan and Eric Frein as examples of the "worst murderers" for which the death penalty is reserved.

The high court in December took a pair of cases that will decide if the capital punishment system violates state constitutional protections. Two death row inmates argue arbitrary factors determine who gets sentenced to death.

The Supreme Court will hear the case in September.

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