[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----N.Y., ILL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Jul 20 14:48:17 CDT 2004
Opponents Say Statute Beyond Repair
Death penalty opponents yesterday urged lawmakers and the governor to
refrain from fixing the state's capital punishment statute, ruled
unconstitutional last month by New York's highest court.
9 years after it was reinstated, the Court of Appeals found that the law
could sway jurors to a death sentence because it required them to reach
Gov. George Pataki, a Republican who championed the law during his first
election campaign in 1994, may have revisions ready for the Legislature
this week. The leaders of the Senate and Assembly have expressed a
willingness to repair the statute, too.
But David Kaczynski, executive director of New Yorkers Against the Death
Penalty, said the ruling is an opportunity to throw out a defective law.
"The downside has become much more apparent as time goes on," he said.
Since it was enacted, the court has set aside 4 death sentences, 3 from
Suffolk and one from Queens. Public opinion also may have turned. A 2003
Quinnipiac University poll found 53 % of New Yorkers favor sentences of
life without parole. By comparison, a 1994 Quinnipiac poll found 41 % of
New Yorkers favored life without parole for those convicted of 1st-degree
Assemb. John McEneny (D-Albany), one of 270 capital punishment opponents
calling for a moratorium yesterday, said this "is too big a thing to rush
to an agreement on ... It is not a little technicality." (source: Newsday)
Session Resumes As Work Awaits
No state budget in sight, but Senate majority leader claims death penalty
fix, minimum-wage legislation and pension savings are near passage
Lawmakers have reached a deal to relieve municipalities -- and local
taxpayers -- of about $1 billion in pension costs, and the Senate is
preparing a minimum-wage increase, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno
The Senate and Assembly are returning to Albany today after breaking in
During the session, the Senate also plans to pass an amendment to the
death penalty law to fix jury instruction flaws identified by the Court of
Appeals that rendered the law unenforceable, Bruno said. The amendment,
which he says will pass by Wednesday and has Assembly support, would come
as 270 groups have banded together to urge the state not to reinstate the
death penalty for which Gov. George Pataki had fought.
"The death penalty is a form of torture," said Joshua Rubenstein,
Northeast Regional Director of Amnesty International, one of several
speakers at a Capitol news conference.
Sources familiar with the death penalty fix say the amendment would likely
allow juries to be informed that a sentence other than death could result
in a life term without parole. The Court of Appeals, the state's highest
court, last month ruled that without such an option, jurors could feel
pressured to condemn a person to death rather than let them go free after
a relatively minimal prison term.
(source: Albany Times-Union)
Lawmakers, Governor Near Rewriting Death-Penalty Law
Legislators and the governor are nearing a deal to rewrite the death
penalty that could be presented to rank-and-file lawmakers as soon as
today, a key Democrat said Monday. The agreement would amend part of the
death-penalty statute that New York's highest court ruled constitutionally
flawed and essentially provide a chance to sentence a convicted murderer
to 25-years-to-life with no shot at parole even when a jury is deadlocked,
said Assemblyman Joe Lentol, D-Brooklyn, the Democrats' point man on
criminal justice. "There may well be an agreement in the offing," Lentol
said. "(Today) we will present the progress of negotiations to the
(Democratic) conference and the conference could decide whether to accept"
or continue negotiations.
The Legislature, adjourned since June 23, is returning to the State
Capitol today for a possible one-day session. The leader of the state
Senate added that he too expected an agreement on changes to the
Last month, the state's highest court struck down New York's death statute
as unconstitutional, saying its sentencing provisions were coercive. The
law required a judge to tell a jury that if it deadlocks on whether to
impose death or life in prison, the judge would impose life in prison with
possible parole after 20 years. That's coercive, the high court ruled. For
example, jurors worried about a criminal returning to the streets could be
pressured to vote for death.
The ruling effectively suspended the death penalty statute. No one has
been executed under this statute, which was enacted in 1995, and district
attorneys across New York have been pursuing the death penalty at a
dramatically reduced rate over the last 4 years.
Since the court decision, the Assembly, Senate and Gov. George Pataki have
been negotiating a rewrite. The changes center on giving a sentencing
option of life with no chance for parole even when the jury is deadlocked.
Democrats who control the Assembly are the key to any agreement. Lentol
stressed that Democrats have not discussed the issue since the court
decision and that some of his colleagues may want to put it off for more
study. "(They) may feel as a body they want to do it," Lentol said.
Pataki acknowledged the 3 sides have been talking about an agreement. "I
hope we can correct what the court termed a (flaw) as quickly as
possible," the governor said.
Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said he has "a high expectation" that
an agreement will be hammered out.
Meanwhile, a coalition of capital-punishment opponents held a news
conference Monday to urge lawmakers not to rewrite the death penalty.
Given that DNA evidence has cleared dozens of people on death row across
the country in the last decade, New York should use the court decision to
drop capital punishment altogether, they said.
Marguerite Marsh, whose daughter was murdered by Poughkeepsie serial
killer Kendall Francois about 7 years ago, said the death penalty "is not
justice, but revenge." Faced with possible execution, Francois struck a
plea bargain and was sentenced to life in prison. "For me justice was
served," said Marsh, an Albany County resident.
Representatives from the state Catholic Conference (the lobbying arm of
the Catholic Church), Amnesty International, the NAACP, the New York Civil
Liberties Union joined with New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty to call
for a moratorium.
"To have a quick fix today would be to put a bandage on a (flawed) law,"
said David Kaczynski, whose brother, Ted, was the Unabomber convicted of a
nearly 20-year spree of mail bombings. David Kaczyinski, who turned in his
brother in exchange for a promise not to seek the death penalty, has since
headed the anti-capital punishment coalition.
(source: Gannett News Service)
Court psychologist quits after killer's IQ test questioned
The chief psychologist who advises Cook County judges in mental competency
matters has resigned amid allegations that he changed answers on a
convicted murderer's IQ test and then lied about it in court last spring.
Timothy C. Cummings of Cook County's Forensic Clinical Services submitted
a letter of resignation earlier this month to his boss, Dr. Mathew Markos,
a county official said.
Bruce Wisniewski, human resources administrator for the Circuit Court of
Cook County reported that the letter did not say why Cummings was
resigning, and neither Cummings nor his attorney returned calls Monday
At the time of his resignation, Cummings had been placed on temporary
unpaid suspension, Wisniewski said. The county was investigating
allegations that Cummings changed answers on convicted killer Randall
Jarrett's IQ test.
The issue came to light during a March 23 court hearing to determine if
Jarrett had a high enough IQ to be eligible for the death penalty. Jarrett
and his uncle robbed, beat and killed 50-year-old Herman Bailey on the
North Side in 1997.
Cummings gave Jarrett a comprehensive IQ test last year. The results
showed he was "dull-average," but not mentally retarded.
During the March hearing, defense attorneys questioned the results after
Cummings read a test answer that was more complete than what their copies
of Jarrett's test showed. Defense attorneys then said they found another
discrepancy in a test answer.
Cummings attributed the differences to a photocopying error. But defense
attorneys claimed Cummings had changed Jarrett's responses to make him
seem more intelligent -- and was now trying to deny it.
Cummings denied in court that he did anything inappropriate, and in April
he told the Sun-Times he would consult with an attorney and look for "some
Wisniewski said Cummings' resignation essentially has put an end to the
Forensic Services is overseen by the chief judge and helps judges decide a
host of mental competency issues. Cummings had been with the office since
(source: Chicago Sun-Times)
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