Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in the state Friday, saying that the capital punishment regime was “error prone, expensive and anything but infallible."
The Democrat, who took office on Jan. 20, said that the ban on executions will remain in place until he receives a report from a task force that has been studying the state's death penalty regime, the Associated Press reported.
"I want to give this joint bipartisan commission on the death penalty the ability to come up with their report," Wolf told reporters at a public appearance in Harrisburg on Friday evening. "Is it cost effective? Are we doing the right thing? Is it fair? Is it effective as a deterrent?"
Wolf also raised concerns about the effect of economic and racial prejudices on capital punishment in the state. “There are strong indications that a person is more likely to be charged with a capital offense and sentenced to death if he is poor or of a minority racial group, and particularly where the victim of the crime was Caucasian," he said, according to CNN.
Pennsylvania’s death row, which has been shrinking, has 183 men and three women, according to the New York Times. The state has executed three people since the Supreme Court restored the death penalty in 1976. All three had voluntarily given up their appeals. The state has not executed an inmate since 1999.
The decision was criticized by the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, which accused Wolf of misusing his authority.
“A moratorium is just a ploy,” the association said in a statement, cited by the Washington Post. “Make no mistake, this action is not about waiting for a study– it’s about the governor ignoring duly enacted law and imposing his personal views against the death penalty.”
Wolf's decision means that death row inmate Terrance Williams, 48, a former high-school quarterback sentenced to death for the 1984 murder of Amos Norwood, a 56-year-old church volunteer, will not be executed as scheduled on March 4, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Wolf will grant a reprieve, not a commutation, of sentences in each future instance in which an execution for a death row inmate is scheduled, his office said in a statement.