Human Rights News

New York Assembly Blocks Reinstatement of Death Penalty

On Tuesday, April 12, 2005, the New York Assembly Committee on Codes voted against sending a bill to the floor of the New York Assembly that would have restored the state’s death penalty law. The death penalty was halted in New York last year after the State Supreme Court ruled that the New York death penalty statute was unconstitutional. Since that time, there has seen an enormous outpouring of support for ending the death penalty in New York. Several large hearings were held in New York and Albany where law enforcement, family members of murder victims, experts in capital punishment law and representatives of organizations that oppose the death penalty, including Human Rights Watch, spoke in favor of abolishing the death penalty in New York.  
 
The Committee on Codes’ decision not to allow a vote on a bill that would have restored the death penalty comes after the Speaker of the House, Sheldon Silver, publicly retreated from his long-term support of capital punishment. The same bill was passed earlier in the year by the New York State Senate, but other prominent New York legislators have changed their stance on the issue in recent months, citing flaws in the system that have allowed innocent persons to be executed and people of color to be unfairly targeted.  
 
Unless there are procedural maneuvers by death penalty supporters in the New York Assembly, the death penalty legislation will not be acted upon in this session. Observers say that such a maneuver is unlikely and the death penalty will likely remain off the books in New York for the next few years.