Thursday, April 26, 2012

KDKA Talk Show Host Says PA Should Get Rid of Death Penalty

Wow! Conservative Pittsburgh talk radio host, KDKA's Robert Pratte just said live on air that if a legislator is brave enough to introduce a bill to abolish the death penalty in Pennsylvania, that he would support him. He said it several times. I think he means it and I couldn't agree more.

Rob's reasoning goes something like this: it's a waste of money and we shouldn't be wasting money on it at a time when important things, like education, are being cut from PA's budget. He says we can't shorten the appeals process and that he doesn't want to see an innocent person executed.

With the abolition of the death penalty in Connecticut, there are five states in five years that have abolished it. We're now at a total of 17 states without capital punishment. And there's more coming. I want to make sure that PA is one of the next to end this barbaric practice.

We can do this. We must.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ray Krone: Charges Dismissed

On April 24, 2002, nearly 10 years after he was first convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, Ray Krone was cleared of all charges.

Ray, who was once a supporter the death penalty, now speaks against it. He now speaks publicly about his experiences on death row and in prison and hopes to educate audiences on the flaws in the justice system and why the death penalty should be abolished. Ultimately, he doesn’t want another person to endure the same experiences he did.

I hope this series of posts serves as a commemoration of Ray Krone and all the work he’s done against the death penalty since his release. On the day of his release, when Ray told the reporter that his life was about the “next 10 years” rather than the 10 years he spent in prison, I feel he really meant what he said. 

Ray Krone: The Real Killer Was Still on the Loose

While police and prosecutors focused on finding ways to convict Ray Krone of murdering Kim Anacona, there was something else going on: The real killer was still walking around freely. Luckily, the man suspected of killing Kim was arrested several days later on a molestation charge. But what if he hadn’t been?

Most of the attention of the police was set on Ray. The true killer, had he not been caught, could have committed numerous crimes while he roamed free of suspicion. The point here reflects back to the post on the police. Law enforcement officials and prosecutors need to do their best to keep an open mind until they are 100 percent certain they have the right person. When they don’t, it clouds their judgment and they become so caught up in the person they’re trying to convict that they disregard evidence that not only refutes their beliefs but also potentially points to another person.

Ray Krone: Convicted Twice

When Ray Krone was first convicted of the rape and murder of Kim Anacona the evidence was weak. The prosecution relied mostly on bite marks found on the victim’s neck and breast, and because an “expert” claimed the bite marks matched those found on the victim.

After spending two years and eight months on death row, Ray was granted another trial, but was once again convicted of the same crime despite the fact that other experts disputed and disproved the original experts claims. However, the judge, who knew the bite mark evidence was weak, reduced Ray’s sentence to 46 years in prison (which was essentially life considering Ray was 35 years old at the time).

After spending 10 years in prison (2 years and 8 months on death row), Ray now walks free with his charges dismissed. There is, however, something to be said about Ray being falsely convicted two times.

If the United States justice system screwed up Ray’s case twice because of junk science, prosecutorial misconduct and other things, how many of the other 3,000 plus other death row inmates have also been falsely convicted? Ray’s story should serve as an example and should also raise the question, “Is it worth it?” Is it worth it to risk executing an innocent person? What purpose will lowering ourselves to murder serve in the end? The death penalty serves no purpose in our justice system other than a “justified” form of murder. It is a money eating, broken and immoral system that must be abolished.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Ray Krone: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

One of the most widely discusses issues regarding the death penalty, especially in Philadelphia, is an ineffective assistance of counsel.

When a defendant is at risk of being sentenced to death, he or she should be defended by the best lawyer(s) possible to ensure they have the best chance of not receiving the death penalty. However, this isn’t always the case. In fact, most of the time the defense is unprepared, unsuitable to working on a capital case and ultimately ineffective at creating a strong defense for the accused.

Ineffective assistance of counsel can occur many ways. For instance, in Philadelphia many of the defendants cannot afford a lawyer so they are appointed one by the city. Studies have shown that these lawyers are severely underpaid, overburdened and unfit to defend someone in a capital case. This puts the accused at a huge disadvantage, and can often lead to a false conviction.

In other instances, defense lawyers may not follow proper protocol for a capital case. Some lawyers may not investigate an alibi or submit evidence to a forensics expert to be evaluated.

In the end, the outcome is always the same. The defense is weak and the defendant is easily convicted. In capital cases, this means the defendant is at risk of being executed without having gone through a truly fair trial.

The risk of wrongfully convicting someone runs much higher when his or her defense is poor. When ineffective assistance of counsel occurs, the fairness of a trial is no longer present.

Ray Krone: Religion

On the day Ray Krone was released from prison a reporter asked him how he justified God leaving him in prison for 10 years. Krone response to the reporter? “Maybe it’s not about the 10 years I spent in prison. Maybe it’s about what I have to do the next 10 years. I want to be a survivor and not a victim.”

As a man of faith, Ray held onto his beliefs throughout the 10 years he was incarcerated. He is now a staunch advocate of abolishing the death penalty and speaks alongside religious leaders with hopes of convincing others that the death penalty is wrong.

Opposing the death penalty isn’t a rare idea when it comes to religion. The Roman Catholic Church, which is the highest populated in the United States, are against the death penalty. The United Methodist Church, American Baptist Church, Presbyterian Churches, Episcopal Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches all support abolition.

There is often debate about the Conservative Protestant view on the death penalty. Most Conservative Protestants are in favor of the death penalty, but also hold a pro-life stance. They rationalize their beliefs by stating that to take an innocent human life is wrong, but to take the life of a person who has been committed of a heinous crime is justifiable. Despite their attempts at rationalization, I still find their quite contradicting. Who are we as humans, just as those who we sentence to death are humans, to take the life of another person? Guilty or not, human life should be held in the highest, most sacred manner. When there are other methods to ensure those guilty of crimes can never commit a similar crime again, there is absolutely no reason for the death penalty. There is absolutely no justification to the taking of another human being’s life.

Ray Krone: Police

When an individual is convinced of an idea, such as a homicide suspect, it may be hard to persuade the individual of anything other than what they already believe. This can be a dangerous for the wrongfully accused because the person investigating the crime may refuse to investigate other leads and may even ignore evidence that contradicts what they already believe.

This was prevalent during the investigation of Ray Krone. Despite evidence such as the bite marks not matching Ray’s or the shoe size found at the crime scene being a different size than Ray’s, those investigating the murder continued pursuit on Ray until he was convicted of the crime he didn’t commit.

This is a frightening concept. We as humans possess the ability to think freely, but once we set our minds on an idea it can become difficult to convince us otherwise. This is especially dangerous with law enforcement. The police investigating Ray Krone’s case were presented with numerous facts that disputed their claims that Ray raped and murdered Kim Anacona. Those investigating an incident and even the prosecutors working on a case must be as open minded as possible and not zero in on someone until they are 100 percent sure they are correct. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ray Krone: Junk Science

The prosecution’s primary evidence against Ray Krone was a bite mark found on the victim’s breast and throat. Ray has a very distinctive bite mark (which caused him to be labeled as the Snaggletooth Killer) because of an injury suffered while he was growing up. The bite marks, according to an article on, were what primarily convinced the jury to convict Ray in both trials, despite there also being evidence that the bite marks and the blood found on the victim were not Ray’s.

According to The Los Angeles Times, 63.5 percent of bite mark investigations resulted in false positives while 22 percent resulted in false negatives. Still, this was the primary piece of evidence used to falsely convict Ray Krone of murder in one trial and then another years later after the evidence had already been disproven.

Science is a wonderful thing. It has allowed us to surpass any expectations our predecessors had for society as well as better our own living conditions. However, we know through years of trial and error processes that science isn’t always right. While DNA evidence and other methods used during trials has become a great way to prove someone’s innocence or guilt, using methods that we know are not reliable is dangerous and creates an unfair trial.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ray Krone: Prosecutorial Misconduct

There are numerous admirable and honest police and prosecutors in the United States who dedicate their lives to ensuring the general public is safe form harm. In an ideal world, all of those working in these respective fields would perform their jobs with 100 percent honesty. However, we know this is not true. Prosecutorial misconduct occurs when a law-enforcement official or prosecutor commits an act or acts that can be viewed as unfair or inappropriate.

In Ray Krone’s case, prosecutorial misconduct was committed when the prosecutors failed to over a forensics tape that they were going to use as a primary piece of evidence until the night before the trial. Additionally, the prosecution withheld an odontologist’s report that casted doubt in the allegations of Ray. Because of these circumstances, Ray’s lawyers were put at a disadvantage during the trial.

While prosecutorial misconduct can be any action that is unfair or appropriate, some common forms include: law enforcement officials misleading jurors about their findings, failing to turn over exculpatory evidence to prosecutors (or the defense), tampering with evidence, allowing bad witnesses to testify and pressuring defense witnesses not to testify.

While there are many honest and hardworking law-enforcement officials and prosecutors in the world, just one dishonest one can lead to a false conviction. It’s important for the safety of the public that dangerous criminals are off the street, but everyone still reserves their right to a fair trial. Because we cannot guarantee a trial will be fair and free of misconduct, we cannot continue to utilize the death penalty solely because in cases such as Ray Krone’s, there can be misconduct that leads to a false conviction and ultimately could lead to the execution of an innocent person.

Ray Krone: Innocence

Ray Krone was the 100th exoneree since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1973. To date, there have been a total of 140 exonerations.  However, 3,199 people still remain on death row. How many of them are innocent? More importantly, how many of the 1,291 people have we executed since 1976 were innocent? Should we, as human beings, continually risk executing an innocent person?

According to the Innocence Project, there have been 289 post-conviction DNA exonerations (17 served on death row). Someone can be falsely convicted of a crime for a number of reasons, which include but are not limited to, faulty eyewitness identification (misidentification by eyewitnesses was a part of more than 75 percent of the 289 wrongful convictions), false confessions, and ineffective assistance of council.

DNA evidence has proved it can be a monumental tool for post-conviction exonerations. It has provided irrefutable evidence that sometimes the system that we hold in such a high regard is wrong, and that someone can be wrongfully convicted of a crime they didn’t commit.

Ray Krone was convicted of a crime he did not commit twice. It wasn’t until a judge granted him the right to have DNA from the victim’s clothing tested that the doorway to Ray’s freedom opened.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Maybe It's About the Next Ten Years"

Ray Krone

The man pictured to the left is Ray Krone. Ray was convicted of raping and murdering Kim Ancona in Phoenix, Arizona in 1992. Now, nearly 20 years later and after a second false conviction, Ray again walks free in York County, PA, where he grew up.  With all charges against him dismissed,  Ray’s case exemplifies many of the reasons why I am opposed to the death penalty in all cases.  

Ray’s story is a textbook example of some of the problems with our capital punishment system. From  prosecutorial misconduct  through ineffective assistance of counsel, and beyond, the end result was that Ray Krone was  forced to spend 10 years of his life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Prison time is never easy, but life on death row is a special form of hell and Ray spend XX years there.

April 24, 2012  is the 10-year anniversary of the day all of Ray’s charges were dismissed. In honor of Ray, I will be posting a series of blog entries  that  highlight the issues relating to  both Ray’s  case and many other death penalty cases. They  will also illustrate  a flawed  death penalty ; a system which must be dismantled.  


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Execute Art Not People

On April 15th Philadelphia Artists gathered to take a public stand against the death penalty in Pennsylvania. These are four of the artists. Clockwise from left: King Britt, Paul Santoleri, Kate Watson Wallace, and Tatyana Fazlalizadeh.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Reaching Abolition Through County Strategy

Want to do more to abolish the death penalty in PA? Take this opportunity to
Spring into Action through our new County Level strategy!
County strategy – Most of the cost of the death penalty is borne by Pennsylvania's counties, not the state, yet most county commissioners and almost all county residents have no idea how much more expensive a capital trial is compared to a trial where the maximum possible sentence is life without parole or a sentence of years. I’m asking that each of you contact your county commissioners and ask some tough questions about the cost of capital trials. If there is a current case where the District Attorney is considering seeking the death penalty or has already announced that he or she will seek the death penalty, please ask for the cost estimate for that case.

Last summer, I contacted one of the commissioners for York County. He had no idea of how much more a death penalty trial costs as opposed to one where death is not being sought. He also had no idea of how I might find out. He suggested that I look at the county’s budget. I did. Of course, those costs are not captured separately. The way the process works here is that when the court needs funding, a request is sent to the commissioners who then approve it without questioning it.

I went to the District Attorney’s Office and asked about the cost differences. I got the typical answer that since all of the staff are paid a salary and not by the hour or day, it doesn’t cost any more to put on a death penalty prosecution than it would to put on a prosecution where the maximum sentence is not death. This is patently untrue. Even if we are unable to capture the dollar amount, there is still an opportunity cost. What other cases might be prosecuted without the long delays that are delaying justice?

It will help us to abolish the death penalty if residents of many counties asked the same question of the district attorneys. While you may not receive a straight forward answer, your inquiry sends a clear message that residents are watching and are concerned about how their tax dollars are being spent.

Your experiences, whether they include attending a capital trial or a portion of it, meeting with county commissioners, District Attorneys, and the Chief Public Defender, would all make for powerful letters to the editor, blogs, facebook posts, tweets and more. If you’d like help with composing your letters or blogs, or social media messages, please let me know at

Last, but certainly not least, if you are able, please attend court proceedings of capital cases. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania often conducts these cases as quickly and cheaply as possible. For example, I attended one trial where jury selection began on Monday and the defendant was sentenced to death on Friday afternoon.

Check back here soon for observation tips and a form that will make sharing your insights with the PADP office even easier. give you tips on observing and writing what you see and hear.

Thanks again for all that you do.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

"I think it's time we STOP, children; what's that sound? Everybody look what's goin' down!"

Yup, that would be the sound of the death penalty swirling down the drain as Connecticut moves closer to abolition. More later, but for now, a big "Thanks!" to everyone who worked to make this happen. It took countless hours, long nights blurring into the wee hours of the morning, on countless days. You are all amazing and I'm proud to follow in your inspirational wake. You know who you are. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your heroic work. Now get some sleep!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

We Concur On Need For Compensation For Wrongful Convictions

The following letter to the editor from Michael J. Macchioni of South Hanover was published in yesterday's Mr. Macchioni writes about the need for compensation for the wrongfully convicted in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has many examples of wrongful convictions, including six men that were exonerated after being sentenced to death. The full text of the report of the Advisory Commission on Wrongful Convictions can be found here.

I urge you to contact your PA State Representative expressing your support for the introduction of a bill dealing with this issue and asking that they consider working with Representative Marsico to draft such legislation.

"A commitment to equality for all citizens and to a fair justice system are hallmarks of our democracy. Pennsylvania, however, is one of 24 states having no wrongful conviction compensation statute. Advanced DNA testing has been used by the Innocence Law Project to exonerate those wrongfully convicted of crimes.

Michael Morton of Texas is an example of an exoneree helped by the Innocence Law Project. He spent nearly 25 years in prison for murdering his wife until DNA testing proved his innocence and implicated the real perpetrator. Since his exoneration, the Texas Supreme Court has ordered a court of inquiry to determine whether the prosecutor contributed to Morton’s wrongful conviction by concealing evidence of Morton’s innocence from the defense.

Even the conservative-leaning state of Texas has a comprehensive wrongful conviction compensation statute. Texas provides compensation for child-support payments, tuition for up to 120 hours at a career center or college and re-entry and reintegration services, including life skills, job and vocational training for as long as those services are beneficial. In addition, the state provides necessary documentation (i.e. a state ID card) and financial assistance to cover living expenses. Help also is provided to access medical and dental services.

I’ve asked Rep. Ron Marsico to introduce legislation to counter the injustice of wrongful convictions. I ask that other interested citizens join me in calling for this to be made right.

South Hanover Twp."