Key New York Legislators Say Reinstatement of Death Penalty Unlikely
Key members of the New York Legislature who supported the death penalty when it was reinstated in 1995 have changed their positions and now favor letting the law expire. Joseph Lentol, Chair of the Codes Committee of the N.Y. Assembly, says he now supports life without parole instead of restoring the death penalty for which he voted in 1995. His announcement came at the conclusion of hearings into the issue. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver stated that he will not be pressured into having the full Assembly vote on restoring capital punishment. "It clearly seems to be moving in a direction away from the death penalty in the last 10 years, now that you have life without parole gaining more acceptance. Maybe it just shouldn't be," Silver said referring to the death penalty.
Lentol predicted that the three committees sponsoring the series of five public hearings on the future of New York's death penalty would recommend sticking to life without parole. Judiciary Committee Chair Helene Weinstein, an Assembly member who supported capital punishment in the past, said: "My vote 10 years ago was 10 years ago. There's a lot of new information, important information, about DNA testing, about innocent people being convicted, and so on." Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, the third legislative leader of the hearings, strongly opposes capital punishment.
Their colleagues in Albany have also indicated a shift in support for capital punishment. "A moratorium on the death penalty, or doing nothing to restore it, seems the best way to go, because there's very little evidence the death penalty has helped New York these 10 years," said Assemblyman Ron Canestrari, who voted for the 1995 death penalty statute. Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, also a supporter of the 1995 law who now opposes it, added, "Look at what's happening over in Connecticut; it's a circus over there with all those delays in a death penalty case. Why do we need that?"
Since 1995, an estimated $175 million has been spent on death penalty cases with no executions.