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Does Pennsylvania have the death penalty?

On Behalf of | Oct 5, 2022 | Criminal Defense

The harshest sentence a person can receive for a crime is the death penalty. Because of the severity of the sentence, it is only an option in limited cases. In addition, not every state has the death penalty.

Pennsylvania does have the death penalty as an option in some murder cases.


The first death sentences in the state were carried out by hangings. Counties would be responsible for the punishment. But as time progressed, the state took over control, and it banned public executions that were the norm in the 1800s.

The state did use the electric chair in the 1900s, but the last use was in 1962. It legally changed the method to lethal injection in 1990. Since 1976, Pennsylvania has only carried out the sentence three times. Death row is rather small, but the state does have the fifth largest death row population.


In 2015, Governor Tim Wolf announced a moratorium on the death penalty. This move essentially paused all executions. Any on the calendar was removed. He also refused to sign any additional death warrants. These come when a court hands down the sentence and are a requirement before carrying out the sentence. Since he will not sign them, there can be no executions occurring in the state.

While Pennsylvania has the death penalty and courts can use it as a sentence in certain murder cases, there is little chance of being put to death as long as the moratorium remains in place, which might change with new governors taking office since it was a directive by Wolf.