Pennsylvania Supreme Court asked to throw out death penalty

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner (Photo by Jared Piper/PHL Council)

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will consider whether the state's death penalty statute amounts to cruel, arbitrary punishment that's too often reserved for black and poor defendants.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner opposes the death penalty and is a driving force behind the court challenge. He says that two-thirds of the 155 death sentences handed down in Philadelphia over the past 40 years were later overturned on appeal.

Critics of capital punishment say that's often because poor defendants don't get adequate legal counsel.

RELATED: Krasner asks court to declare Pennsylvania death penalty unconstitutional

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and the state District Attorneys Association oppose the appeal.

Just under half of the 137 men on death row in Pennsylvania are black, compared to 11% of state residents. The death penalty remains legal in 29 U.S. states.