Impact of death penalty moratorium on Eric Frein case

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Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin, who is seeking the death penalty against accused killer Eric Frein, criticized Gov. Tom Wolf for placing a moratorium on capital punishment Friday.

Frein is accused of shooting two state troopers in September at the Blooming Grove Barracks. Cpl. Bryon Dickson was killed and Trooper Alex Douglass was injured.

“Today’s action by Governor Tom Wolf does not serve as any legal impediment to my office’s pursuit of justice in the criminal case against Eric Matthew Frein,” Tonkin said in a prepared statement. “This unilateral action will only cause more pain and confusion to families who have suffered the actions of the worst criminals.”

Wolf said he does not want any executions to go forward until a bipartisan task force reviewing capital punishment finishes its report and he has a chance to have his concerns addressed. The report is expected some time this year, but it’s unclear when.

“What Eric Frein is alleged to have done was heinous. It’s awful, disgusting. And he deserves the worst possible punishment,” said Wolf.

The following is the full statement released by DA Tonkin:

“Governor Wolf’s unilateral and potentially unlawful action today does not prevent my office from seeking justice on behalf of the Dickson family and the entire State Police family in the matter of Commonwealth v. Eric Matthew Frein.

In the criminal case, where Eric Matthew Frein is charged with murder in the first degree of Corporal Bryon Dickson of the Pennsylvania State Police, my office filed a notice of aggravating circumstances and intent to seek the death penalty against Eric Matthew Frein on January 27, 2015. Today’s action by Governor Tom Wolf does not serve as any legal impediment to my office’s pursuit of justice in the criminal case against Eric Matthew Frein.

Should a jury return a verdict of guilty against Eric Matthew Frein for the murder of Pennsylvania State Police Corporal Bryon Dickson, I will ask that same jury to consider all the evidence and weigh the aggravating circumstances as contained in current criminal law. A jury of twelve citizens will then determine the appropriate sentence.

I am disappointed that the Governor failed to respond to correspondence from the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association before announcing to the Commonwealth’s citizens he is granting a moratorium on the imposition of the death penalty for those convicted of some of the most heinous crimes in the state. In announcing his action, the Governor has usurped the authority of the legislature and courts in setting the lawful punishment for convicted killers. This unilateral action will only cause more pain and confusion to families who have suffered the actions of the worst criminals.

It should be clear this announcement of reprieves effects only those already convicted and awaiting execution. This action will not deter my efforts, nor the efforts of prosecutors across this State, to bring accused killers to justice.”

1 Comment

  • OneMan'sOpinion

    What Eric Frein did was no more heinous and deserving of the death penalty than any other murder of similar circumstances. No one has had the actual punishment carried out in PA since 1999 so this action to stall the penalty means nothing in reality. The shock and awe over further stalling of the death penalty only results from emotion. Delays will continue no matter what. So take a chill pill, convict the bastard, sentence him to fry and wait a couple of decades in appeals. That’s what is going to happen no matter who is governor.

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