John Fetterman’s campaign for the Democratic Senate nomination is retracting remarks he made last year that seemed to advocate for the release of all second-degree killers from Pennsylvania’s prisons.
Fetterman, the Pennsylvania lieutenant governor who chairs the state’s Board of Pardons (BOP), commissioned two reports from Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) last year that called on the BOP to consider merit-based clemency for people who are currently serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for second-degree murder.
When he ordered the reports, Fetterman said that he was pleading for “mercy for the deserving and rehabilitated.”
The reports, according to Fetterman, documented “the lives that are destroyed” and “the resources that are wasted” as a result of Pennsylvania’s statute. He expressed his hope that the reports’ findings would “lead to a conversation” that would free close to 1,200 people during a PLSE press conference on March 1, 2021.
“I hope that it might lead to a discourse that would release over 1,200 individuals from a legacy that never made sense, that incorporates victims’ input, encompasses their behavior and conduct in jail, and also looks at the resources that are spent unnecessarily…,” he added.
The Fetterman campaign said that his comments made in 2021 at the PLSE conference “are being taken out of context” and that it is unclear from his language at the time if he was referring about releasing prisoners.
According to PLSE at the time, there were 1,166 inmates in the state receiving life sentences without the possibility of release for second-degree murder.
Second-degree murder is commonly described as any deliberate killing that is not premeditated or planned, however the definition differs by jurisdiction, according to FindLaw, a law resource website sponsored by Thomson Reuters. When someone dies in connection with a felony, which is defined as committing, trying to commit, or escaping from an act of robbery, burglary, abduction, rape, or arson, it is considered second-degree murder in Pennsylvania. This crime also includes accomplice culpability.
Throughout the discussion, Fetterman remarked, “I always want to err on the side of kindness.” “Recidivism among juvenile lifers who were freed following a Supreme Court judgment was around 1%. That is an astounding statistic. That proves that after they are freed, these people are not Hannibal Lecters; instead, they are living their finest lives. You stop committing crimes as you become older. Imagine the recidivism rate for those who have never attempted suicide in the first place.”
Fetterman has long campaigned for the right to clemency hearings for those convicted for felony murder.
He tweeted in 2019: “If you didn’t take a life, Pennsylvania shouldn’t take yours via jail.” “My administration is aggressively considering and promoting commutations for people who have been sentenced to death in prison for the first time in Pennsylvania. Justice must permit atonement.”
In 2020, he tweeted, “There are about 1200 individuals in Pennsylvania doing life without parole who DID NOT TAKE A LIFE but will SERVE the IDENTICAL SENTENCE as the Tree of Life Synagogue Gunman.”
In February 2021, he said, “My goal is that there is a political will to end death by incarceration for second-degree murder here in Pennsylvania, because it’s a tragedy.
When asked in November what one issue he would use a magic wand to resolve, Fetterman said, “Pennsylvania’s life without parole. Long-term, we might save billions of dollars in income and thousands of lives without jeopardizing anyone’s safety.”
The 2021 reports that Fetterman frequently cites were supported by Heinz Endowments. heiress to Heinz Ketchup Theodora Heinz President Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate change, John Kerry’s wife, serves as chair emeritus of the Heinz Endowments board. Andre Heinz, Kerry’s second stepson, is the board’s chairman at the moment, while John Heinz is a director on the body.
Fetterman “support sensible changes to the criminal justice system that keep Pennsylvanians protected and safe while saving money for the government. He thinks that certain people should serve the remainder of their lives behind bars for the crimes they have committed. But rather than Harrisburg’s politicians, this choice should be made by courts and parole boards “Fox News received a comment from Fetterman campaign spokesperson Joe Calvello.
According to the campaign, Fetterman believes certain people convicted of second-degree murder deserve to stay in prison and does not favor the release of all criminals serving life without parole.