NYS Seal For Immediate Release:
November 23, 2004


Silver Announces Death Penalty Hearings

New York City, Albany Forums Seek Public Dialogue
On New York's Experience With Controversial Statute

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver today announced that the Assembly Committees on Codes, Judiciary and Corrections will conduct public hearings in New York City on December 15, 2004 and Albany on January 25, 2005 to consider the future of capital punishment in New York State.

The Assembly hearings will be chaired by Assembly Codes Committee Chair Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn), Judiciary Committee Chair Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn) and Corrections Committee Chair Jeffrion Aubry (D-Queens).

Pointing to the ruling issued earlier this year by the state Court of Appeals striking down a provision of the state's death penalty statute as unconstitutional, Silver said the hearings would provide a forum for much-needed public discussion of the death penalty some nine years after its enactment.

"The Court of Appeals in June of this year effectively struck down New York's death penalty law," Silver said. "The Legislature is now faced with the profound question of whether the death penalty should be reinstated in New York, and, if so, what form any new statute should take. These hearings will provide invaluable information that we will use in making these decisions."

"It is important for the Legislature to hear a range of views on this issue before we pass any legislation," said Lentol. "I am confident that these hearings will allow those views to be heard and carefully considered by the Legislature."

"These hearings are intended to provide a public forum to review what New York's experience with the death penalty over the past nine years has been and what that experience has taught us," said Weinstein.

"Through these hearings, we have an opportunity to review what is undoubtedly one of the most important measures any government can take up, which is the ability or right to take a life and the process that constitutes that action," said Aubry.

Silver noted that while New York State has had a death penalty statute in place for almost nine years and has spent approximately $170 million administering the law, not a single person has been executed under the statute.

"The fact that this law was ultimately struck down by New York's highest court highlights the need for a careful examination of the experiences of New York and other states with capital punishment," said Silver.

The committees will solicit testimony on varied aspects of the 1995 statute, such as:

  • Did the 1995 statute provide appropriate safeguards to ensure that innocent persons would not be convicted and subject to the death penalty;
  • What evidence is there that New York's death penalty or the death penalty in general deters intentional murder more effectively than other sentencing options;
  • Should the categories for death penalty application be expanded, contracted or otherwise modified if the death penalty is reinstated;
  • Has New York provided sufficient financial resources to law enforcement, victims' services, defense providers and the judicial system to administer the death penalty over the past nine years?

The first hearing will be held:

Wednesday, December 15, 2004
10:00 a.m.
Association of the Bar of the City of New York
Meeting Hall
42 West 44th Street,

The second hearing will be held:

Tuesday, January 25, 2005
10:00 a.m.
Roosevelt Hearing Room
Room C, 2nd Floor
Legislative Office Building

- 30 -

NOTE: Click here to view a copy of the hearing notice.