Statement by Senator Thomas K. Duane on Senate Republicans' Public Relations Attempt to Restore the Death Penalty

May 7, 2007

I strongly oppose the death penalty under any circumstances. Period.

It is morally and ethically wrong. I will vote against any bill that restores the death penalty.

Today, you will hear others who will cite very compelling statistics as to why the death penalty is wrong. But I want to talk about the politics and procedure of this vote -- it is a waste of time. It is nothing but press release legislation. New York State had a death penalty for ten years -- during that time we did not execute a single person. Those convicted and sentenced to death were placed in very expensive housing inside a State prison. The ten year experiment concerning the death penalty in New York failed. So why are we pushing for it now?

In fact, we were so quick ten years ago to pass a death penalty that we drafted a sloppy and poorly drafted bill -- which is common in the State Legislature. And it was for that reason the Court of Appeals overturned the death penalty.

New York will never again have a death penalty. Many other states that do have a death penalty are considering eliminating it. It is time to move on to other things.

And I urge my legislative colleagues to visit our State correctional facilities, I urge them to visit the Special Housing Units (SHUs). They are grim and tragic places. Life in prison is serious punishment. It is not a vacation.

I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the New York State police and the family of Trooper Brinkerhoff. I too was angry when I heard the news about this tragic waste of life, and I anticipated calls for the death penalty. But this emotional response is the very reason why we have a deliberative body known as a State Legislature. This is also why we have the Court of Appeals. They are designed so that we do not expedite laws in the heat of the moment.

Rush laws in haste, repent in leisure.

We all need to take a deep breath, sit down, and work hard to find solutions to the gun violence in this State. And we all know that the death penalty is not the solution. Letfs stop the press release legislation and do something meaningful to help New Yorkers.

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