State Democrats Seek to Remove Death Penalty Officially

Court of appeals ruled capital punishment unconstitutional more than a decade ago

Tom Puckett
March 12, 2019 - 4:00 am

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) Although it's been deemed unconstitutional for the past 15 years, the death penalty is still on the books. Two Manhattan area Democrats want to officially remove capital punishment.

“We think it’s an important statement, notwithstanding the fact that the death penalty is illegal according to the Court of Appeals decision, of New York’s values about criminal justice and I think it is a guiding principle about how we address those issues,” State Sen. Brad Hoylman tells the New York Law Journal.

Attorney Paul Cambria says the change won't be that radical. "The Court of Appeals declared the death penalty to be unconstituional, so quite frankly the net effect is zero," says Cambria.

Cambria says there was no jeopardy for any inmate in New York. The last inmate on death row was moved out in 2007, and the sentence commuted to life without parole.

Why does Cambria think this is happening? "Political probably. For years and years, there's been no death penalty, and the one that was passed was found to be unconstitutional," says Cambria.

Gov. George Pataki returned the death penalty in New York in 1995 before the Court of Appeals struck it down in 2004. 

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