York County has eight men on death row, including a pair of brothers who were convicted three years apart for the same double murder.
There are 221 people on death row in Pennsylvania. Since 1985, Pennsylvania governors have signed 365 execution warrants. Three executions have been carried out, the last in July 1999.
District Attorney-elect Tom Kearney said the death penalty is filed in certain cases because the "citizens of our commonwealth, through the legislature, have imposed this sanction for particularly heinous offenses such as murder.
"The short answer is," Kearney said, "because the citizens have asked us to."
The death penalty is actively opposed, as well. Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, for example, has as its goal to end the death penalty in the state, according to its Web site.
Kearney noted that Gov. Rendell recently signed an execution warrant for John Amos Small, who was convicted of murder in York County. And that Small, who has been on death row since 1996, immediately filed for a stay of execution.
"The courts have said certain things need to be considered to insure an innocent person is not executed," Kearney said. "It's a balancing act."
Barker said it is not that no one can be executed in Pennsylvania, but that the checks and balances put in place by the courts makes for a lengthy process.
"As far as we are concerned, it is an absolute viable sentencing option," he said. "The death penalty is listed as the maximum penalty by law in the commonwealth. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania recognizes it, the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes it. Death warrants are signed. And in egregious cases, we will pursue it."
Barker said the automatic appeal process following a capital conviction usually takes up to 10 years before a case is appealed to the higher federal appellate courts.
"The bottom line is the processes take a long time," he said.
York County death row inmates
--- Paul Gamboa-Taylor, 49, was sentenced Jan. 23, 1992, after pleading guilty to the May 18, 1991, hammer slayings of four family members: his wife, Valeria L. Gamboa-Taylor; their two children, Paul, 4, and Jasmine, 2; and another child, Lance Barshinger, 2. He received a life sentence for killing his mother-in-law, Donna M. Barshinger. His case is on appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. He remains at Green State Correctional Institution.
--- Daniel Jacobs, 39, was sentenced Sept. 18, 1992, for the Feb. 10, 1992, stabbing death of his girlfriend, Tammy Lee Mock of York, and the drowning of their 7-month-old daughter, Holly Danielle Jacobs.
--- Hubert Lester Michael Jr., 53, sentenced March 20, 1995, after pleading guilty to the July 12, 1993, abduction and shooting death of 16-year-old Trista Elizabeth Eng in the Dillsburg area. Michael unsuccessfully attempted to withdraw his guilty plea. Execution warrants were signed in 1996 by Gov.
--- Mark Newton Spotz, 38, was sentenced April 24, 1996, for the Feb. 2, 1995, shooting death of Penny Gunnet, 41, of New Salem, his third victim in a four-day crime spree through central and eastern Pennsylvania. Spotz also received death sentences for the murders of June Rose Ohlinger, 52, of Schuylkill County, and Betty Amstutz, 71, of Cumberland County. An execution warrant for the York County conviction was signed by Ridge in 2001. He received a stay in the Gunnet murder in 2001 and that case is on appeal in York County court.
--- John Amos Small, 49, was sentenced June 19, 1996, after being convicted of murder and attempted rape of 17-year-old Cheryl Smith, whose body was found in West Manheim Township in 1981.
--- Kevin Brian Dowling, 51, was sentenced Dec. 14, 1998, for the Oct. 20, 1997, shooting death of Jennifer Lynn Myers inside her art and frame shop just outside Spring Grove. An execution warrant was signed in 2007 by Rendell. His case is on appeal in York County.
--- Milton Montalvo, 47, was sentenced Feb. 14, 2000, and Noel Montalvo, 46, was sentenced April 14, 2003, for the April 19, 1998, stabbing deaths of Miriam Asencio-Cruz and Manuel Ramirez Santana inside the Cruz's York apartment. Rendell signed an execution warrant for Noel Montalvo in July. His case is on appeal to the U.S. Middle District Court of Pennsylvania. Milton Montalvo's case is on appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Pending capital prosecutions
--- Harve Lamar Johnson, 28, was convicted Friday of first-degree murder for the April 7, 2008 beating death of Darisabel Baez, 2. The penalty phase of his trial begins Monday.
--- Nigel Maitland, 19, is awaiting trial for the May 10, 2009 shooting death of Ciara "CeCe" Savage, 9.
--- Kevin Edward Mattison, 33, is awaiting prosecution for the December 2008 shooting death of Christian Agosto, 34.
Other notable York County capital prosecutions
--- Robert Earl Hess, 33, pleaded guilty in March 2008 to third-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 to 60 years for the July 2005 strangulation of Bernice Larraine Ness, 76.
--- Michael David Miller, was convicted of second-degree murder in September 2008 and sentenced to life for the Ness strangulation. The district attorney's office withdrew its intent to seek the death penalty before trial.
--- Thomas Lee Brown Jr., 35, was sentenced to life in prison for the April 2006 shooting of Lamont Nelson, 32. Brown's jury deadlocked during the penalty phase resulting in the life sentence.
--- Charles Malloy, 33, was sentenced to death in May 2000 for the 1996 shooting for Arthur Irick, 18. Malloy remained on death row six years. Granted a new sentencing hearing by the state Supreme Court in 2006, Malloy's jury deadlocked in the penalty phase and he was sentenced to life.
--- Damien Michael Schlager, 29, was sentenced to two life terms in December 2005 following his conviction for killing Christina Joyce Colon, 24, and her unborn baby in July 2004. Schlager's jury gave him a life sentence for Colon's murder. Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh sentenced Schlager to life in prison for the murder of the unborn child.
--- Brian K. Moore, 37, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in July 2005 to avoid a capital prosecution for the suffocation of Gloria Trible, 66, in 2005.
--- Karl Stephenson Chambers, 46, was sentenced to death twice -- in 1987 and 1994 -- for the 1986 murder of Anna Mae Morris. Two execution warrants were signed by Ridge in 1997. Both of Chambers' death sentences were vacated. Judge John S. Kennedy sentenced Chambers to life in prison following a third penalty hearing after determining Chambers was mentally retarded and could not be considered for the death penalty under state case law.
--- Noel Hightower, 43, was sentenced to life in prison in June 2005 for the beating death of Deirdre Ann Trone, 36, in 2004. Hightower's jury returned the life sentence.
--- Travis Matthew Laughman, 24, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in 2006 for the beating death of 2-year-old Kellen Tate Koller in 2005.
--- Donald Bruce Hofler, 75, pleaded guilty to two charges of third-degree murder for killing his estranged wife, Rita Knighton-Hofler, 48, and his stepson, 17-year-old Kevin Gehring in April 2004. He was sentenced to 40 to 80 years in prison in October 2005.
--- Kenny Mueses, 26, was sentenced to life in prison in March 2005 for the first-degree murder of Marcus Wayne Jackson Jr. on June 7, 2003. The district attorney's office withdrew its intent to seek the death penalty before trial.
--- William Santiago, 26, was sentenced to life in prison in January 2005 for the Feb. 23, 2004, shooting death of William T. "Billy" Barnes, 16. His jury returned a life sentence.
--- Dorian Eady, 35, was acquitted in February 2005 of the Sept. 7, 2003 shooting death of Anthony Lloyd, 25. The district attorney's office withdrew its intent to seek the death penalty before trial.
--- Juan Soto-Echevarria, 29, was sentenced to life in prison in July 2004 for the drive-by shooting death of Tyree Beard, 29, in June 2003. His jury hung on the death penalty.
--- Sonia D. Lucre, 27, was released from custody in June 2004 and all charges against her in connection with the Beard homicide were dropped "in the interest of justice," according to the district attorney's office. Lucre was held for nine months without bail.
--- Axel Rivera-Rodriguez, was acquitted of all charges in July 2004 in the Beard homicide. The district attorney's office withdrew its intent to seek the death penalty before trial.
--- Maxmino Hernandez, 32, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in July 2004 in the Beard homicide. The district attorney's office withdrew its intent to seek the death penalty before trial.
--- Dennis Toby, 23, was sentenced to 271/2 to 55 years for third-degree murder in August 2004 for the March 2003 killing of Steven Strickler. The district attorney's office withdrew its intent to seek the death penalty before trial.
--- Harry Burdell King III, 29, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in August 2004 for the Strickler homicide and was sentenced to 14 to 30 years. The district attorney's office withdrew its intent to seek the death penalty before trial.
--- Antonio Michael Stauffer, 29, was sentenced to life plus 40 to 80 years in July 2004, for the June 7, 2002, shooting death of Deena Faye Cunningham, 26. The district attorney's office withdrew its intent to seek the death penalty before trial.
--- Robert Tuley, 27, was sentenced to five to 10 years in December 2002 for conspiracy to commit robbery after he was acquitted of murder and robbery charges in the March 2002 killing of Dimitrios "Jimmy" G. Valakis, 61. The district attorney's office withdrew its intent to seek the death penalty before trial.
--- Frances Carol Jacobs, 34, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, robbery and conspiracy in May 2002 in the Valakis case and was sentenced to 30 to 70 years.
--- Richard S. Gross, 43, was sentenced to consecutive life terms after he pleaded guilty in December 2002 to the murders of his parents, James and Brenda Gross, in May 2002.
--- Derrick R. Cramer, 32, was sentenced to life in May 2003 for the stabbing death of Randolph "Jamal" Echols, 20, in February 2002. The jury returned the life sentence.
--- Marcus M. Robinson, 50, was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in April 2003 for the murders of Bessie Short, 48, and Sandra Blankenship, 46, in December 2001. The district attorney's office withdrew its intent to seek the death penalty before trial.
--- Matthew Aaron Auchey, 31, was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in November 2002, for the March 2001 bathtub death of his stepdaughter, 2-year-old Whitley Moats. The district attorney's office withdrew its intent to seek the death penalty before trial.
--- Kenneth Craig Quaster, 46, and Victor Lynn Ennis, 47, were acquitted in a February 2002 in the 1981 shooting death of Brian Joseph Richardson, 16. Both men were found guilty of intimidation of a witness and criminal conspiracy and sentenced to seven to 14 years.
--- Luis Fernando Cintron, 34, was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in March 2002 for a voluntary manslaughter conviction in the August 2000 killing of Joel Rivera.
--- Ricky Lee Legares, 37, was sentenced to life in January 1997 for the March 1995 shotgun murder of Joseph Podlucky Jr. Granted a new trial by the Pennsylvania Superior Court, Legares was convicted of third-degree murder in May 1999 and sentenced to 10 to 20 years.
--- TaRon R. Bennett, 31, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and conspiracy in June 1997 and Steven Eric "Tookie" Smallwood Jr., 28, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for their roles in the November 1995 shotgun death of Thomas Holland, 54. Bennett was sentenced to time served and five years probation. Smallwood was sentenced to four to eight years. The district attorney's office withdrew its intent to seek death penalties. Nasser Banks, 18, the third defendant in the Holland homicide and the alleged shooter, hung himself in 1996 before going to trial.
--- John Allen Hughes, was sentenced to life in prison in September 1993 for the February 1992 ax-slaying of Sheila L. Deller. His jury returned a life sentence. Hughes hanged himself in prison in January 1997.
--- James Henry Carpenter, 73, was sentenced to death by his jury in 1984 for the Sept. 3, 1983, stabbing death of Jimmie Lee Taylor. That sentence was vacated by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002. Judge Michael J. Brillhart sentenced Carpenter to life in 2003.
--- James William Begley, 52, was sentenced to death by his jury in 1996 for the Jan. 17, 1995, shooting death of Erica Miller. That sentence was vacated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2001. He was sentenced to life in 2002 by Judge John C. Uhler when his re-sentencing jury deadlocked.
--- Cornell Mitchell, 27, was sentenced in 1989 by Judge Richard H. Horn for the June 18, 1988, stabbing death of Kwame L. Beatty. Mitchell died in prison in 1991 from AIDS.