SCRANTON -- No one has been executed in Pennsylvania since Gary Heidnik in 1999. So, statewide, it may seem that a moratorium on the death penalty already exists. The governor's action Friday only makes it official.
However, a moratorium on the death penalty does have an impact on prosecutors in our area where there are at least two ongoing capital cases.
Calling Pennsylvania's death penalty a "flawed system," Governor Tom Wolf has put a moratorium on executions in order to do more research.
You can debate whether or not the system is flawed, but State Attorney General Kathleen Kane said Friday there's no doubt the death penalty applies to some criminals.
"I believe that, in some cases it's warranted, and the law is very specific about where that occurs. Whether torture is involved and a bunch of circumstances. But again, I'll follow the law no matter what it is," Kane said.
Attorney General Kane and several Lackawanna County prosecutors learned about the Governor's moratorium during a news conference in Scranton Friday morning.
Lackawanna County District Attorney Andy Jarbola has tried capital cases, but a criminal from the county hasn't been executed since 1973.
While the moratorium is in place, some high-profile death penalty cases in our area will continue.
State police called the moratorium a "travesty" given the current case against Eric Frein.
Frein is accused of shooting two troopers, killing one last year in Pike County.
Jurors in Luzerne County are set to decide next week whether convicted killer Hugo Selenski should be put to death. But a death sentence will not result in an execution, at least for now.
Prosecutors said they will follow the law whether or not it changes, and whether or not they agree with it.
"I would disagree with him, but I mean, he's the governor. He's able to do so. He talked about it during his campaign," Jarbola added.
Governor Wolf said a state task force on capital punishment is preparing a report on the death penalty system. He said the moratorium will be in place at least until that report comes out. No word on how long that could take.