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Governor’s Moratorium Shouldn’t Impact Selenski

WILKES-BARRE — So what does the governor’s office have to say about the argument Hugo Selenski’s attorneys tried to use in court? Is the gover...
death penalty

WILKES-BARRE -- So what does the governor's office have to say about the argument Hugo Selenski's attorneys tried to use in court?

Is the governor's moratorium meant to help prevent death sentences?

The governor's office tells us nothing has changed when it comes to prosecutors seeking the death penalty. It's still a punishment under Pennsylvania law. The only difference is now the executions themselves are on hold while Pennsylvania's capital punishment system is under review.

The governor is requesting no change from prosecutors, judges, or juries.

While jurors consider the death penalty for Hugo Selenski only days after the governor issued a moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania. The governor's office says that move should have no impact on this case now.

Former Luzerne County district attorney Peter Paul Olszewski agrees.

"I think the judge correctly ruled is what Governor Wolf has done, is put a moratorium on executions, that is the killing of individuals sentenced to death. He did not, nor does he have the power to, repeal death penalty legislation," Olszewski said.

Olszewski was the last D.A. to successfully seek a death sentence in Luzerne County. He prosecuted Michael Bardo in 1993 and got a jury to sentence Bardo to death for killing his 3-year-old niece and dumping her body.

But like most others on death row, Bardo was never executed. On appeal, his death sentence was overturned nearly two decades later. His sentence is still in limbo.

"While Pennsylvania has a death penalty statute on the books, Pennsylvania essentially has no death penalty," Olszewski said.

In issuing a moratorium, Governor Tom Wolf cited an endless cycle of court proceedings that he says makes the death penalty in the state ineffective.

He suspended executions here until a review of the state's system is complete.

Now, 20 years after Olszewski secured a death sentence for Bardo, he's glad the governor took action, but also happy it has no impact right now on a case like Selenski's.

"Clearly the Pennsylvania system is broken. It needs to be fixed and the people of Pennsylvania will have to decide if we want to have a death penalty or not and if we do there should be executions."

According the governor's moratorium, if Hugo Selenski is sentenced to death, that sentence will stand. He could not be executed until that moratorium is lifted.

Three people have been executed in Pennsylvania since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

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