Here’s the latest news today out of Pennsylvania:
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), who announced a 2022 Senate bid earlier this month, said in a statement Tuesday that he will not accept donations from the fossil fuel industry in his run.
Fetterman said in the statement obtained by The Hill via email that he had signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, under which candidates vow not to accept more than $200 from executives, lobbyists or PACs connected to the oil, gas or coal industries.
“I never have and never will take a dime from the fossil fuel industry,” Fetterman, who signed a similar pledge in his 2018 lieutenant governor run, said in a statement.
“Climate change is an existential threat, and we need to transition to clean energy as quickly as possible. And as we do this, we must ensure that we have a just transition that honors and upholds the union way of life for workers across Pennsylvania and creates thousands of good-paying union jobs in the process,” he continued.
Fetterman continues to impress as a candidate. Here’s another issue he’s highlighting:
Pennsylvania’s mandatory life-without-parole sentence for second-degree murder is costing taxpayers millions and ruining the lives of some people convicted of “felony murder” who never took a life, according to Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.
Fetterman made his comments Friday when releasing a report by the Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity that revealed facts, figures, and research about Pennsylvania’s second-degree prison population that he said illustrates a need for change.
“More than 1,000 people are sitting in jail right now on what amounts to a death sentence despite never having taken a life,” Fetterman said in a statement. “That’s not because a judge thought the sentence was deserved. It’s because a one-size-fits-all law makes it mandatory. Any reasonable person who looks at the unfairness of these sentences will acknowledge the need for change.”
The report explained that “unlike almost every other crime, second-degree murder – often called “felony murder” – does not describe an act but a situation: it applies when someone dies related to a felony. In Pennsylvania, that felony is defined as committing, attempting to commit, or fleeing from an act of robbery, burglary, kidnapping, rape, or arson.”
The punishment applies to both the person who actually caused the death and to any other person who participated in any other way, including:
- Planning the crime, even if you didn’t help execute it
- Being a lookout
- Being the get-away driver
- Receiving anything that was stolen.
According to the 52-page report funded by a grant from The Heinz Endowments, “Pennsylvania law specifies what the sentence for second-degree murder must be: life in prison without the possibility of parole.”
The death of Leonard Leichter in 1980, of a heart attack brought on by the terror of a gunpoint carjacking, was a painful loss that still haunts his daughter, Nancy Leichter.
But when she realized that two young Black men were still in prison 40 years later for his death — even after the ringleader in the crime was paroled — that was a new source of pain.
“They committed a terrible crime, but they don’t deserve to die in prison,” she said. “I think people are more than the worst thing they’ve ever done.”
Leichter became a forceful advocate for clemency for the two men, brothers Reid and Wyatt Evans, urging the Board of Pardons to recommend them for commutation. The board did so.
On Thursday, with the stroke of a pen, Gov. Tom Wolf commuted their life sentences to lifetime parole, allowing for them to be released from prison, according to Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. Wolf’s office did not immediately respond to a request for information Thursday afternoon.
The brothers were among 13 life-sentenced people granted clemency, Fetterman said. Others to be released include Philadelphia brothers Dennis and Lee Horton, who have long maintained their innocence in a robbery shooting, and Avis Lee, who was a teenager when she served as a lookout for a robbery that turned fatal. Lee Horton’s wife, Joanna, said the day had been a rollercoaster: Lee told her that they’d been granted clemency, and that they had also both tested positive for the coronavirus.
“I cried some. I’ve been screaming,” said Joanna, who works as a home health aide and was about to finish her shift. “When I leave here, I’m going to scream and I’m going to run down the block.”
Fetterman, who has pushed to expand access to clemency, called the releases a career highlight.
By the way, in case any of you were wondering:
Let’s keep up the momentum. Click here to donate and get involved with Fetterman’s campaign.