In the last few months my office has received numerous letters, emails and phone calls from Albany County residents opposed to the death penalty. I want to thank these citizens for taking the time to share their views with me on this important issue.
As many of you may already know, Senator Volker introduced Senate Bill 2727, which was intended to "fix" the death penalty statute in New York State, thus reinstating it as a punishment option. The death penalty is ineffective and unjust and I am opposed to its reinstatement. Please know that on March 9, 2005, I voted against S.2727 for the following reasons:
- It unfairly punishes the poor; ninety-five percent of defendants charged with capital crimes are indigent and cannot afford their own attorney to represent them. They are often forced to use inexperienced, underpaid court-appointed attorneys.
- It is applied in a racist fashion; in New York, those accused of murdering white victims are more than twice as likely to face the death penalty than those who murder black victims, according to the Center for Law and Justice in Albany.
- It sometimes condemns the innocent to die; since 1976, more than 100 people have been released from prison after being sentenced to death despite their innocence. In other words, 1 in 7 of those on death row have been freed after being fully exonerated.
- It is far more expensive than life without parole; since its return to New York in 1995, $160 million has been spent. The New York Daily News estimates that before the first execution takes place, $238 million will be spent.
- It is not a deterrent to violent crime; an FBI study shows that states which have abolished the death penalty averaged lower murder rates than states which have not.
Senate bill 2727 passed the Senate and has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Codes for consideration. It is my hope that with continued vocal opposition, this bill will not become law and the death penalty will not be reinstated.