Senate Passes Death Penalty Legislation

John J. Flanagan

March 09, 2005

The New York State Senate today passed legislation (S.2727), that would amend the state's death penalty law to fix a provision that was ruled invalid by the state Court of Appeals.

In addition, the Senate has established an Internet web site,, for people to sign an online petition, registering their support for fixing the death penalty law and getting it back on the books.

"The death penalty deters crime. Since the enactment of the dealth penalty in 1995, the number of murders in New York State and the number of violent crimes have decreased by 40 percent," Senator Flanagan said. "By enacting this bill into law we can ensure that a capital punishment law is in place and can be used to protect New Yorkers and prevent dangerous, violent criminals from getting back on the streets and commiting more crimes."

In addition to signing the online petition, visitors to the web site will also be able to read additional information and statistics on the impact of capital punishment to reduce crime, get more information on the death penalty bill passed by the Senate, watch video of a news conference announcing Senate action on the death penalty and receive updates on the status of the legislation.

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.

This bill, which was submitted by Governor Pataki, 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.

The Senate announced action on the death penalty legislation last week at a news conference, where senate members were joined by Benjamin Nazario of Flushing, Queens. Mr. Nazario’s brother Ramon was one of five victims killed in the tragic shootings at a Wendy’s Restaurant in Flushing in May 2000. One of the two men convicted in the killings, John Taylor, was sentenced to death and the sentence is pending an appeal.

They were also joined by Debra Jaeger of Wheatfield, Niagara County. Her sister, Jill Russell-Cahill, was killed by her husband Jeff Cahill, whose death sentence was overturned in the controversial decision by the State Court of Appeals.

Nazario and Jaeger both urged that the death penalty law be fixed to bring justice to violent killers that took the lives of their brother and sister.

"I urge the Assembly to bring this bill to the floor for a vote," Senator Flanagan said. "In 1995, 94 members of the Assembly, including myself, voted in favor of death penalty legislation, and I believe this bill would pass again, if it is brought up for a vote."