Senate Passes Death Penalty Legislation

James L. Seward

March 09, 2005

In observance of National Police Week, the New York State Senate has passed legislation, sponsored by Senator Martin Golden (R-C, Brooklyn), that would establish the death penalty for criminals who kill police officers.

"I believe it is a deterrent and it is also simple justice," said State Senator James L. Seward, who voted for the measure. "While I support a comprehensive death penalty statute for all ofthose who kill in premeditated circumstances, this is one step forward, and it contains important safeguards. Ten police officers have been killed in the last year anda half, compared to two in Texas during the same time period. It must end."

"As a former New York City police officer, I have looked into the eyes of would-be cop-killers," said Senator Marty Golden. "I know that there is evil walking on the streets of the City and State of New York, endangering the lives of every single police officer. As a legislature, it is our responsibility to pass this legislation and send it to the governor, because we can no longer sit back and watch ruthless murderers take the lives of police officers. New York needs the death penalty to protect our society and our police officers."

"Police officers all across this state put their lives on the line every day to protect the people of New York," said Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno. "We must toughen our laws to protect police from becoming victims of violent criminals. Too many law enforcement officers are being killed while honoring their commitment to protect and serve this state -- and many more are injured and wounded in the line of duty. We need to do everything we can to protect our brave heroes, and this legislation will protect our communities, and our police officers, from violent criminals."

The legislation the senate passed today (S.319) would establish the death penalty for the intentional murder of a police officer, peace officer or an employee of the Department of Correctional Services.

In 2004, the Court of Appeals overturned death penalty sentences, declaring 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.

This legislation addresses those concerns with respect to the murder of a police officer, peace officer, or correctional officer by mandating the sentence of life without parole if the jury is deadlocked and unable to agree on the death penalty sentence.

"I urge the assembly to bring this critically important bill to protect our police officers to the floor," said Senator Bruno. "In 1995, 94 members of the assembly voted in favor of death penalty legislation, and I believe this bill would pass if brought up for a vote."

The bill was sent to the assembly.