HARRISBURG, February 13, 2015 − Senator Vincent Hughes released the following statement in support of Governor Tom Wolf’s decision to impose a moratorium on the death penalty:

“I want to commend Gov. Tom Wolf for taking the brave step of declaring a moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania. This is something that I have supported for many years. I have deep concerns about how the death penalty is being applied, especially as it concerns both racial and economic bias.

There have been numerous studies that question the fairness in the capital punishment system. A study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that Pennsylvania had one of the highest percentages in the nation of people of color on death row. The same study found that African-American defendants were 38 percent more likely to face the death penalty.

Another study by the Innocence Project found that too many defendants face barriers where trying to access tools like DNA testing. This is best epitomized by the case of Nick Yarris, who served 21 years on Pennsylvania’s death row for a crime he did not commit. Like many defendants, he did not have access to technology that could have proved his innocence much earlier.

I believe that it is completely appropriate for the governor to exercise his powers in this regard as he is the one who must sign the death warrant and ultimately implement this final punishment. I look forward to continued reforms to ensure the Pennsylvania criminal justice system really does deliver justice for all of our citizens.”

Senator Vincent Hughes represents the 7th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County. He is also the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.