POOR Kim Pawlowski. First, she lost her police officer husband in February 2009, allegedly at the hands of Rasheed Scrugs - a man Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey described last year as "not salvageable." Now she will endure an unavoidable murder trial. And then, assuming a conviction, she'll sit through a penalty phase that's an outright sham.

We have the death penalty in this state in name only. And we owe it to Kim Pawlowski and scores of other grieving families to either use it or lose it.

If we were being honest with them, we'd explain that convicted cop-killers have a better chance of dying from bedbugs than lethal injection. Just ask Maureen Faulkner or any number of a growing list of Philadelphia police widows and family members.

On Monday, citing information from the state Department of Corrections, the Daily News' Mensah Dean published the list of those sitting on Pennsylvania's death row for murdering police officers:

John Jordan Lewis, sentenced in November 2009 for the murder of Officer Chuck Cassidy.

Christopher Roney, March 1997 for the murder of Officer Lauretha Vaird.

Ronald Gibson, February 1995 for the murder of Officer Frederick Dukes.

Bortella Philisten, February 1995 for the murder of Officer Robert Hayes. (Officer John Marynowitz was critically wounded.)

Edward Bracey, October 1992 for the murder of Officer Daniel R. Boyle.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, May 1983 for the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner.

Leslie Beasley, August 1981 for the murder of Officer Ernest Davis.

Note that Beasley was sentenced in 1981, Abu-Jamal in 1983 and Bracey in 1992. There are 50 death row inmates in the state whose sentences were set in the 1980s. Since becoming governor, Ed Rendell has signed at least 113 death warrants - none of which have actually been implemented.

In fact, since capital punishment was reinstated in the commonwealth in 1978, just three people have been put to death (the last was Gary Heidnik in 1999) - and only after each gave up his appeal. In other words, they asked for it!

The state's last contested execution was carried out in 1962. In the intervening five decades, the justice system has been gradually manipulated into a process that coddles its worst offenders at the expense of the real victims.

And, unfortunately, the reality is that with every minuscule appeal and scurrilous campaign of misinformation, the ultimate deterrent value of the death penalty is eroded.

There's a reason Richard Poplawski, accused of executing three officers in Pittsburgh last year, expressed a desire to "possibly write a book one day" from jail. And why Abu-Jamal has been nicknamed "Pops" by fellow death row inmates.

It's because no matter what the law says, too many cogs in the state's criminal-justice system don't take the death penalty seriously.

Today, no cop-killer, no matter how heinous the murder, could have any well-founded fear of actually being executed. Which leaves little justification for parading the victims' families through a decades-long slog of hearings, appeals and news cycles. In the end, those responsible for the death of their loved ones never get the punishment to which they're sentenced.

IN PENNSYLVANIA, the wheels of justice are not just grinding slowly. They have dropped off the train all together.

Meanwhile, the charade continues as family and loved ones of police officers continue to die of natural causes.

Kim Pawlowski will raise her son without a father.

That's just not fair. And it certainly isn't justice.

Listen to Michael Smerconish weekdays 5-9 a.m. on the Big Talker, 1210/AM. Read him Sundays in the Inquirer. Contact him via the Web at www.smerconish.com.