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Quakers discuss Pa.'s death row

April 10, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Local Quakers on Sunday hosted a gathering to discuss the death penalty in Pennsylvania, which they said has 225 inmates on death row.

Quaker, or Regligious Society of Friends, philosophy mandates a belief that only God should have the power to take a human life, so life in prison without parole is adequate punishment.

A Franklin County jury sentenced Albert Reid of Chambersburg to death in 1998 for the murder of a local woman and her teenage daughter. And Franklin County District Attorney Jack Nelson on Friday said he is seeking the death penalty against Michael Brandon Singley of Chambersburg, who is charged in a double-murder case now going through the court system.

Mary Wilt of Mechanicsburg, Pa., the Lutheran founder of Advocates for Justice and Freedom, addressed Sunday's gathering.

"District attorneys will do all they can to stop appeals in death penalty cases," Wilt said. She said it is often difficult to talk to those who strongly support capital punishment.

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"The question to ask them is, 'What if it were you and you were innocent?'" she said. "It can happen to anyone who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"The general population is beginning to listen to that question."

Wilt said she believes many people on Pennsylvania's death row are innocent.

Quakers support a bill in the state Senate that is calling for a two-year moratorium on executions, much like one signed earlier this year by the governor of Illinois. Supporters claim it came about because of innocent death row inmates.

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