Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Let's help end the Culture of Death in NY State, Pass John Paul's Law

Newsday.com: Powerful committee in New York state Assembly kills death penalty bill

Newsday today reported that the New York State Assembly Codes Committee has rejected sending the Senate Death Penalty bill to the floor of the Assembly for a vote to reinstate the Death Penalty in NY. Late last year the NY Court of Appeals ruled that the Death Penalty law in NY violated the NY State Constitution in that it forced state judges to instruct juries in such a way that they thought they had to impose the death penalty.

As should be expected the Republican Senate and our Governor George Pataki have raged against the Codes Committee for stalling what they say is the will of the people. I disagree.

In fact the assembly ran a state-wide forum on the Death penalty with hearings being held around the state. The Codes Committee issued a lengthy report where in the far majority of the 180 speakers ( I believe about 140) spoke out AGAINST the reimposition of the Death Penalty. Moreover a recent Marist Poll showed that the Death Penalty only has about 28% support as against a law that calls for the imposition of a mandatory life sentence without parole provision.

It is about time the Senate and the Governor and really the whole far out right wing of the Republican party help us opt out of the "Culture of Death." The fact of the matter is that the death penalty robs all of us in a loving Society of dignity. For those that claim that the death penalty "protects us from danger" I say balderdash ( I would use harsher language but this is a family kind of blawg .)

Pope John Paul II in his masterful "Ecclesia in America"(http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_22011999_ecclesia-in-america_en.html) completely destroys that argument. His Holiness wrote "...(it is) unnecessary recourse to the death penalty when (there are) other bloodless means' sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons. Today, given the means at the State's disposal to deal with crime and control those who commit it, without abandoning all hope of their redemption, the cases where it is absolutely necessary to do away with an offender 'are now very rare, even non-existent practically'”.

In fact there are many very good reasons not to imposes a Death Penalty. For instant there is the complete inconsistency of trying to teach people that they shouldn't take a life by in fact taking one. The Death Penalty is a final solution but it does not take into account that the state makes mistakes and that an innocent life can be taken. Again I guess that proponents do not really care about innocent lost life as long as it is not theirs or someone they love. Numerous studies have shown that the death penalty is unfairly used against people of color. Further the death penalty undermines the right to a trial by a jury of one's peers. A death penalty jury must be death qualified which means that if an otherwise good juror has an opposition to the death penalty they can be disqualified for having that objection in their hearts. Hence in death penalty cases the accused is only permitted a jury of his peers that has no objection to killing him. Not a very comforting thought.

Proponents of the death penalty speak about how there are a number of checks that can stop wrongful convictions. Their hypocrisy is however transparent. As they in one breath speak of the numerous appeals that can stop wrongful conviction, they complain that the appeals process takes too long and gives the condemned too many rights. They complain about loopholes that "let murderers go free" when in fact these "loopholes" as they call them are what we call rights. They hate the founding fathers 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th amendments forgetting that these amendments ( and the 13th-15th) are the People's rights in combating the tyranny of the state. What can be more tyrannical than giving the state the right to take the life of another possibly innocent citizen??

I can hear the culture of death camp lick their lips in anticipation of the blood that may flow from the argument that " We should be able to execute those where there is no question of their guilt, where they are caught on tape or confess or are seen by many and apprehended at the scene. They will throw up names of those society hates: Colin Ferguson; Ted Bundy; the Unabomber; Osama Bin Laden!! There can be no mistake about the evil of these killers. Nevertheless the Death Penalty is wrong in a free society. I see the death penalty as perpetuating a cycle of violence and promoting a sense of vengeance in our culture. "Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord" (Leviticus 19:18). I am not arguing that seeking vengeneance is wrong only because the Bible says it is (though that is a good reason for me) The Bible says it's wrong because it makes sense.

If you believe in good as a triumphant victor over evil (as I do) then it is reasonable that good cannot overcome evil by good men and women perpetrating or supporting evil. When we as a society spend so much time and money worrying about exacting vengeance we lose the opportunity to combat the evil in the world by looking at ways to eliminate or at least reduce it.

I have had the burden of representing a person facing NY's death penalty. I cannot speak of the individual case however I can say that the time and effort it took to exact the punishment was enormous. The death penalty in NY has cost well over 10 million Dollars to prosecute and has resulted in no one killed. Society is no more safe for having the penalty. In fact it is fair to argue it is more in danger as those dollars have not been used to fund rehabilitation programs or programs that could possibly cause others to avoid a life of crime, one that could put them in danger of taking another's life. Moreover the use of a life without parole sentence would avoid making martyrs out of death row inmates and would save us money in the long run because the cost of prosecution and appeals would be far less.

The pro-death culturalist may rail against the argument saying that it is those that oppose the death penalty that cause it to cost so much, however their own insistence on a series of checks against killing the wrong person mandates lengthy expensive appeals and process. It is not enough to kill a man when another is murdered. Society has a moral obligation to seek out and punish only the real wrongdoer. The death penalty without a series of expensive appeals is no more than a sham. A bloodthirsty sham.

The "Life without Parole" possibility is a viable and safe provision which assures that those convicted will not ever burden society again unless they can show they were wrongfully convicted. There is a bill in the NY State Assembly right now that could assure our safety and put the focus of the "correctional system" back where it belongs... on Corrections! It is A-00851. It seeks to outlaw the Death Penalty and impose a life without parole penalty in its place. It is a wise law. It is one that could work and do exactly what Pope John Paul II asked of us. In fact I have a good suggestion to the proponents of A-00851. Laws like this one need popular names. Rename A-00851. Let's call it John Paul's Law.

The Assembly should pass John Paul's law and send it to the Senate and the Governor. Then we can see if they are serious about protecting the People of the State of New York from murders or if they are just playing politics while miring society in a culture of death.

That is the opinion of That Lawyer Dude. If you have an opinion leave a message here, or write to me at www.Colleluorilaw.com about this or any law related topic that may be on your mind. I will try to answer all inquiries.
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