The Fetterman campaign, a Democrat running for Senate against Trump-backed Republican Dr. Oz, is walking back moves made previously to end the life sentences of those who committed second-degree murder. Fetterman’s Board of Pardons (BOP) pushed for merit-based clemency for those who are currently incarcerated for second-degree murder, as well as overturning mandates that dictate second-degree murderers serve life sentences with no possibility of parole. Fetterman said that he supports “mercy for the deserving and rehabilitated”, however, this recent decision to walk back his support of second-degree murderers goes against his previous decision. This could be due to the absurdity of his supporting for second-degree murderers, or, this could be an attempt to push for votes. Fetterman went on to say, “I always want to err on the side of mercy… Juvenile lifers released by a Supreme Court decision, the recidivism rate was less than 1%. That’s a remarkable statistic. That demonstrates that these individuals, once they are released, are not Hannibal Lecters, they’re out living their best lives. … You age out of crime. Now imagine people who have never taken a life to begin with, imagine what that recidivism rate would be.”
During a PLSE press conference on March 1, 2021, Fetterman said the reports documented “the lives that are destroyed” and “the resources that are wasted” due to Pennsylvania’s statute, and that he hoped the reports’ findings would “lead to a conversation” that would free close to 1,200 people. “I hope that it could lead to a conversation that would free close to 1,200 people of a legacy that never made sense, that encompasses victims’ input, encompasses their conduct and behavior in prison, it takes a look at the resources that are wasted that…,” he said. At the time, PLSE reported that there were 1,166 people incarcerated in the state serving life sentences without parole for second-degree murder.
According to FindLaw, a law information website powered by Thomson Reuters, second-degree murder is generally defined as any intentional killing that is not premeditated or planned, although the definition varies by jurisdiction. In Pennsylvania, second-degree murder also encompasses accomplice liability and applies when someone dies related to a felony, which is defined as committing, attempting to commit, or fleeing from an act of robbery, burglary, kidnapping, rape, or arson. “If you did not take a life, Pennsylvania should not take yours by incarceration,” he tweeted in 2019. “For the 1st time in PA, my office is proactively evaluating and encouraging commutations for those condemned to die in prison. Justice should allow for redemption.”
Asked in November what is the one thing that he would wave a magic wand to fix, Fetterman responded, “Life without parole in Pennsylvania. We could save billions in revenue long term, we could save thousands of lives, and not make anyone less safe.” “I always want to err on the side of mercy,” Fetterman said during the conference. “Juvenile lifers released by a Supreme Court decision, the recidivism rate was less than 1%. That’s a remarkable statistic. That demonstrates that these individuals, once they are released, are not Hannibal Lecters, they’re out living their best lives. … You age out of crime. Now imagine people who have never taken a life to begin with, imagine what that recidivism rate would be.”
Fetterman “supports common sense criminal justice reforms that keep Pennsylvanians safe and protected while saving taxpayers money,” Fetterman campaign spokesman Joe Calvello said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “He believes there are people who deserve to spend the rest of their life in prison for the crimes they’ve committed. But the decision to do this should be left to judges and parole boards not politicians in Harrisburg.” The campaign said Fetterman does not support releasing all prisoners serving life without parole for second-degree murder and that he believes there are individuals convicted of life without parole who deserve to remain in prison. In response to a follow-up inquiry, the Fetterman campaign said his 2021 remarks at the PLSE conference “are being taken out of context,” and that it is not clear, based on Fetterman’s phrasing at the time, that he was talking about freeing people from prison.
Fetterman’s campaign walking back his support of second-degree murderers may a be a push to win middle-of-the-road voters, because lex policies surrounding second-degree murderers, allowing them to come back onto the streets aren’t something that typical voters would support. As midterms approach, the Dr. Oz vs John Fetterman Senate race is drawing closer. Originally looking to be a clear victory for Fetterman, polling at over 10 points higher than Dr. Oz a few months ago, now Dr. Oz is within single-digit points, and the election could go either way, with John Fetterman polling at 52% support.