[Deathpenalty]death penalty news --- NEW YORK
j_sommer at gmx.net
Wed Apr 13 00:47:23 CDT 2005
death penalty news
April 12, 2005
Albany Panel Closes Door on Death Penalty Measure
Democrats in the State Assembly closed the door today on reviving the death
penalty in New York State this year, handing a significant victory to
groups that are trying to build national momentum against capital punishment.
With a vote by a key Assembly committee, the state's death penalty law now
appears likely to stay off the books for some years to come. The state's
top court struck down the law in June, finding a central element of its
sentencing provisions unconstitutional, and the opposition in the Assembly
is unlikely to change anytime soon because there is so little turnover
among incumbents in Albany.
New York also joins a handful of states where politicians have stepped away
from death penalty laws that their predecessors enacted in 38 states after
the United States Supreme Court restored capital punishment in 1976. The
State Legislature passed its law in 1995, although New York has never
executed a person under it.
Opponents of the death penalty from around the country packed a Capitol
hearing room here today to mark the Assembly's action, and hailed it
afterward as an important moment in the continuing legal and political
battles over the future of the laws. In particular, they noted that some
supporters of the 1995 law had now changed their minds on the death
penalty's infallibility, a shift they hope to stoke elsewhere.
"There is going to be a ripple effect coming out of Albany against capital
punishment, no question," said Shari Silberstein, co-director of the
Quizote Center, a national religious group that is pressing for moratoriums
on executions, who attended the hearings. "When a major state like New York
moves away from the death penalty, other states take notice and ask
questions of their own."
The Democratic resistance to the death penalty could also inject an
uncertain political element into the 2006 races for governor and
Legislature in New York. Gov. George E. Pataki showed the emotional appeal
of the issue in 1994 when he unseated Mario M. Cuomo in part by promising
voters that he, unlike Mr. Cuomo, would sign a death penalty law.
The Assembly's action today came at a half-hour meeting of the chamber's
Codes Committee, which voted 11 to 7 against a bill that would have made
changes to the death penalty law to address the state Court of Appeals
decision in June. All 11 nays came from Democrats; the committee's four
Republicans and three Democrats voted to send the bill to the floor of the
Assembly, where the prospect for passage was expected to be close.
"The death penalty is, in effect, killed for this year," said Assemblyman
Joseph Lentol, a Democrat who is chairman of the committee, and one of the
members who backed the law in 1995 but voted against it today because of
new, personal doubts.
(source: New York Times)
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