The New York State Senate today passed legislation, sponsored by Senator Martin Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn) that will reinstate the death penalty for criminals who kill police officers. The senate also passed a bill, sponsored by Senator Dale Volker (R-C-I, Depew) that would amend the state’s death penalty law to fix a provision that was ruled invalid by the state Court of Appeals.
"We need to send a clear message that if you kill a police officer you will pay with your life," said Senator James L. Seward.
Senate action on the legislation was announced today at a Capitol news conference where Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno and members of the majority conference were joined by David and Kathy Corr, whose son Joseph Corr, a New Hartford Police Officer, was shot and killed in February while chasing a jewelry store robber.
"Police officers all across this state put their lives on the line every day to protect the people of New York," said Senator Bruno. "We must toughen our laws to protect police from becoming victims of violent criminals. Following the tragic killings of two New York City police officers last December, the legislature enacted a law to increase penalties for crimes against law enforcement officials and to keep illegal guns off the streets. It’s time to finish the job by reinstating the death penalty for cop killers."
The senate passed a comprehensive bill (S.6771) would put stronger penalties in place for criminals that target police officers. The bill includes stronger penalties for assault, menacing, murder and attempted murder of an officer, as well as increased penalties for possession of armor-piercing ammunition and the reinstatement of the death penalty for criminals who kill police officers.
"Police officers deserve our unreserved support and total respect for the difficult, dangerous job they perform," Senator Raymond A. Meier (R, Western) said. "Joseph Corr made the ultimate sacrifice when he responded to a jewelry store robbery earlier this year. In addition to his job as a police officer, he was a dedicated community member, husband, and father who is sorely missed not only by his family, but the entire New Hartford community. Criminals who murder police officers strike at more than one life. By murdering one of those sworn to protect all of us they commit the ultimate offense against every citizen and society as a whole."
The senate also passed legislation today that would amend the state’s death penalty law to fix a provision that was ruled invalid by the state Court of Appeals.
"Throughout the nation, New York’s capital murder statute has been known as a model that many states are utilizing as it incorporates unprecedented protections for capital defendants. It has always been a well-balanced law and it is a major reason why New York is one of the safest states in the entire country," said Senator Volker. "Yet, the New York State Court of Appeals decided that portions of our capital punishment statute needs even more protections for the defendant. That is why the state senate will address the Court of Appeals concerns and pass legislation that will reactivate the death penalty. The majority of New Yorkers have consistently supported the death penalty and today's announcement will ensure that the ultimate sentence for the most vile will be available for prosecutors to utilize."
"The death penalty is a strong deterrent to crime. When the death penalty was reinstituted, the number of murders and violent crimes in New York decreased dramatically," said Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno. "We need to enact this bill into law to reinstitute capital punishment to prevent the murder rate from going back up."
In 2004, the Court of Appeals overturned death penalty sentences, saying that judges were improperly required to instruct jurors in capital cases that if they deadlocked and failed to reach a verdict during the penalty phase of a trial, the judge would impose a sentence that would leave the defendant eligible for parole after 20 to 25 years.
The bill (S.2727) would require that in addition to capital punishment or life in prison without parole, juries would be given a third option of imposing a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole when sentencing convicted murderers.
Also, the bill requires that, if a jury is deadlocked, a sentence of life without parole would be imposed, and juries would be told of that provision before sentencing. All pending capital cases, as well as crimes committed prior to the effective date of any change in the law, would be affected by the changes included in this bill.
"I urge the assembly to bring these critically important bills to the floor," said Senator Bruno. "In 1995, 94 members of the assembly voted in favor of death penalty legislation, and I believe these bills would pass again if brought up for a vote."
The bills were sent to the assembly.