In a resurfaced interview from 2019, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), running against Mehmet Oz for the state’s open United States Senate seat, said there is “always that possibility” that convicted killers he helps get released from prison will go on to commit more murders.
As lieutenant governor, Fetterman appoints members to, and sits on, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, using his leverage to help free inmates convicted of second-degree murder and political power to lobby the governor to sign off on such commutations.
Asked “what happens if one of them gets out and does something horribly wrong?” Fetterman replied, “It would be, it would be — first and foremost, it would be catastrophic and personally devastating if somebody hurt somebody. There’s always that possibility, theoretically. Thousands of people are paroled, so the vast majority of inmates cycle through and they re-emerge. So the idea that this is only unique to the commutations process, it’s just simply not true.”
Fetterman has been a longtime advocate of emptying the state’s prisons. For instance, he has said he wants to release from prison close to 13,000 inmates across the state. Likewise, he has said his number one priority is ending Pennsylvania’s law that allows courts to sentence convicted criminals to life in prison without parole.
In 2019, Fetterman successfully lobbied Gov. Tom Wolfe (D) to free convicted second-degree murderer Raymond Johnson. Johnson referred to himself as “a son of the devil” and had bragged about being a hit man who “had killed several people.” A sheriff’s deputy testified in the trial that Johnson had threatened potential witnesses with murder if they testified against him. Ultimately, Johnson was convicted in 1975 and sentenced to life in prison.
Fetterman has overseen the release of 13 convicted murderers. In 2019, he got the Board of Pardons to eliminate application fees for convicts seeking pardons. Also that year, he hired two former inmates convicted of murder who had their life sentences commuted.