There is a slim chance of the first death-row Indian-American prisoner being executed on the scheduled date of February 23 because of a 2015 moratorium on death penalty by Pennsylvania Governor, officials said today. Raghunandan Yandamuri, 32, in 2014 was given death penalty for kidnapping and killing a 61-year-old elderly Indian woman and her 10-month grand-daughter. It was seen as part of a botched kidnapping-for-ransom plot.
“Our Governor has said that should an inmate not be issued a stay of execution by a court, he will issue a reprieve.
“I want you to know this because the likelihood of the execution taking place is slim,” Sue McNaughton, Communications Director, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections told PTI.
Last week, the Department of Correction signed an execution order that Yandamuri be executed through lethal injection on February 23. “Yes, he knows about it. In fact, the official document was read to him at his cell door on the same date the notice was signed,” McNaughton said in response to a question. A native of Andhra Pradesh, Yandamuri had come to the US on a H-1B visa. He holds an advanced degree in electrical and computer science engineering. Following his conviction, he asked that death penalty be imposed upon him. Later he appealed his sentence, but lost his appeal last April.
Yandamuri is currently lodged in Greene State Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. However, McNaughton refused to discuss Yandamuri’s health due to confidentiality reasons and a law that prohibits sharing such information. Now that an execution is signed, Yandamuri can only meet his immediate family members, lawyer and his spiritual advisor.
According to State officials, Yandamuri’s execution could very well be delayed for long as no one knows when the moratorium on it would be lifted. State officials are awaiting the results of a study conducted by the Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Committee on Capital Punishment, before moving forward with any executions.
Pennsylvania has not seen any executions in the last nearly 20 years. Since 1976, three persons have been executed in the States between 1995 and 1999. But when it happens, this could be the first execution of an Indian native in the US.