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Capital Crimes in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is among 33 jurisdictions in the United States, including the federal government, that still imposes the death penalty upon some criminal offenders.  In fact, as of April 2011, Pennsylvania had 216 inmates on death row, the fourth highest number of inmates on death row—behind only California, Florida, and Texas.

In Pennsylvania, the death penalty is reserved for the most grievous of offenses—first-degree murder or the murder of a law enforcement officer.  As such, few criminal defense attorneys in Pennsylvania have experience defending people against capital charges.  Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine a situation where having an experienced criminal defense attorney could be more important than when a prosecutor chooses to seek the ultimate penalty.

This type of experience is indeed rare, even among seasoned criminal defenders.  In 1981, attorney David R. Eshelman battled prosecutors through a six-week jury trial to secure an acquittal for a client facing the death penalty.  That experience taught him not only the ins and outs of defending against capital crimes but also gave him a true appreciation of what is at stake–life itself–when a defendant faces the ultimate price.

When it comes down to it, however, any criminal charge is a serious matter.  And a criminal attorney should defend each client with the same commitment and vigor that he or she would give to a client facing a more serious charge.  Even a minor offense can have a lasting impact on many facets of your life.  Conscientious criminal defenders understand this and zealously defend their clients no matter what the charge.

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