Dear Pennsylvania Legislators,
Harold Wilson, a survivor of Pennsylvania’s death row and the 122nd person to be exonerated from death row in the United States, died on May 18, 2019. Wilson was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death in 1989, but in 2005 a jury acquitted him of all charges after new DNA evidence demonstrated that blood from the crime scene was not his. Harold Wilson was a man of great dignity and determination and he dedicated himself to ending the death penalty in PA and throughout the country.
In a nationwide trend towards abolition of the death penalty, 20 states have rejected the practice of state-sanctioned execution completely and 15 more have abandoned it either in law or in practice. New Hampshire could soon become the 21st state with no death penalty on its books.
A 2018 bipartisan study of Pennsylvania’s use of the death penalty showed flaws and deficiencies in every part of the system they studied. More than 100 individuals have been removed from death row due to poor defense counsel or varied forms of prosecutorial misconduct. Some have died of natural causes. Six have been exonerated. The 158 who remain on death row in Pennsylvania are unlikely to ever see execution; the state has executed only three people since 1976, and no one since 1999.
For the first time ever, bipartisan sponsors representing both chambers of our legislature are introducing bills that would repeal Pennsylvania’s death penalty. Two legislators from Harold Wilson’s home district of Philadelphia, Rep. Chris Rabb (D-Philadelphia) and Sen. Shariff Street (D-Philadelphia), are leading the way to bring the justice that for 16 years eluded Harold Wilson. Rep. Frank X. Ryan (R-Lebanon) and Sen. Katie Muth (D-Berks, Chester, Montgomery) are primary co-sponsors of the legislation.
What happened to Harold Wilson is tragic. We call on the lawmakers of the Commonwealth to make sure it can never happen to anyone else. In tribute to this brave man who was a victim of our failed system, please endorse and support legislation to end the use of the death penalty in Pennsylvania.
Exonerated Death Row Survivors
Witness to Innocence