HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania's corrections secretary scheduled two executions for next month, but a death-penalty moratorium announced in January by his boss, Gov. Wolf, means no one is likely to be put to death in the near future.
Secretary John Wetzel signed notices of execution yesterday for Albert Perez and Lance Arrington, scheduling their executions for April 17.
State law requires the corrections secretary to issue the notices if the governor doesn't sign execution warrants during a specified period. Wolf's spokesman said yesterday the governor plans to issue reprieves when the executions are imminent.
Wetzel's announcement came two months after Wolf declared the moratorium, saying he had concerns about the state's system of capital punishment. Wolf press secretary Jeff Sheridan said Wetzel's announcement did not represent any sort of policy rift, saying it was just "part of the process."
Wolf's moratorium has drawn heated criticism from prosecutors, lawmakers and family members of murder victims. It also generated a legal challenge by Philly District Attorney Seth Williams that the state Supreme Court has already agreed to hear.
Wolf said he considers the current system to be error-prone and expensive, and plans to keep the moratorium in place until he receives and can review a long-pending legislative study on capital punishment.
Pennsylvania has 182 men and three women on death row, but the state has only executed three people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. All three had voluntarily given up on their appeals. Philly killer Gary Heidnik was the last person executed in Pennsylvania - 16 years ago.