Senator Dale M. Volker Announces Senate Passage Of Death Penalty Fix

William T. Stachowski

March 09, 2005

(Albany, NY) Senator Dale M. Volker (R-I-C, Depew) today announced Senate passage of legislation (S.2727) that would correct a technical flaw within the state’s capital punishment statute that was issued by the New York State Court of Appeals. The bill has been forwarded to the State Assembly for their immediate consideration.

"The fact remains that our capital punishment statute is free from racial, religious, ethnic, geographic and all other forms of bias," said Senator Dale M. Volker. "It is a tool that should be available to prosecutors in deterring criminal behavior and has proven over and over again to save thousands of lives. With all of these extraordinary "Defendant Friendly" protections, our state’s Court of Appeals still felt the need for more protections for the defendant. It was the core reason why their recent decision in finding that a defect exists within the sentencing provision (the so-called "Dead Lock" instruction) given to jurors and why they have placed our Death Penalty statute on hiatus. However, with this technical fix to the state’s death penalty statute that addresses the Court of Appeals concerns, we can now reactivate the law and move forward in protecting our residents from those who kill and kill again."

The current language which the State Legislature wrote into the 1995 capital punishment statute, and that the Court of Appeals objected to, required that the trial court "instruct the jury that ... The jury should consider whether or not a sentence of death should be imposed and whether or not a sentence of life imprisonment without parole should be imposed, and that the jury must be unanimous with respect to either sentence. The Court must also instruct the jury that in the event the jury fails to reach unanimous agreement with respect to the sentence, the court will sentence the defendant to a term of imprisonment with a minimum term of between twenty and twenty-five years and a maximum term of life.

The Majority Court of Appeals decision that the "Dead Lock" instruction was coercive because jurors may feel that if they did not come to a unanimous decision that the possibility of the capital defendant could be eventually paroled and pose a future threat to society. The State Senate’s Bill S2427 would correct this defect in our capital punishment statute and reactivate the Death Penalty in our state.

Senate Bill 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 during the sentencing phase. Additionally, it would require that if a jury is deadlocked, a sentence of life without parole would be imposed and juries could be told of that provision before sentencing.