As he signed his final half-dozen death warrants before leaving office, Gov. Rendell today asked the General Assembly to fix the death penalty system so that convicted killers are executed or institute life sentences without the possibility of parole or pardon instead.

Rendell said he has signed 119 death warrants since taking office in 2003. Pennsylvania governors have issued 386 death warrants since the death penalty was reinstated in Pennsylvania in 1978.

"Not one of these indivduals has been executed or even close to a reasonable date," said Rendell at a Capitol press conference. Only three people have been executed since and those executions were carried out because the inmates voluntarily gave up appeals.

Rendell says he still supports the death penalty as a deterrent, but that allowing endless appeals is far too costly and re-traumatizes victims. "A 15, 20 or 25-year lapse between the imposition of death penalty and actual execution is no deterrent," he said.

Rendell said if the appeals process could not be expedited, then he recommends the legislature examine establishing a life sentence without parole or pardon, which Rendell said may entail a constitutional amendment.

Rendell signed six death warrants today, three of them for Philadelphians: Larry Brown, 33, who was convicted of murder in the 2003 shooting death of Robert Crawford; Kareem Johnson, 26, convicted in the 2002 shooting death of Walter Smith; and Christopher Smith, 29, in the shooting death of Rasheed Grant.

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