NEW YORKERS AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY
www.nyadp.org / 516 849 2363
Kill the death penalty
Life without parole is better plan,
says Unabomber’s brother
By DAVID KACZYNSKI
Daily News Editorial
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s decision not to intervene in New York’s last death penalty case is the latest sign to the state’s highest court that our failed 10-year experiment with capital punishment is – or should be – over.
Cuomo’s decision came in response to the filing of a legal brief by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, who is asking the Court of Appeals to ignore its own 2004 ruling and uphold the death penalty for John Taylor (right), convicted of the murders in 2000 at a Wendy’s restaurant in Flushing, Queens.
Cuomo, an opponent of the death penalty, did not base his decision on his personal views. He noted correctly that the Court of Appeals in 2004 “dismantled” the state’s capital punishment law by requiring the state Legislature to affirmatively fix fatal flaws in the 1995 law before it could be reinstated.
The state Assembly wisely refused to do so after a groundbreaking series of five public hearings that allowed lawmakers to comprehensively examine New York’s troubled capital punishment statute. Legislators heard from a broad cross-section of scholars, religious leaders, criminal justice professionals, activists, victims’ family members and exonerated inmates.
The Assembly members learned what the people of New York have learned, as measured in public opinion polls: unfairness in how the death penalty is sought and applied, the exorbitant costs attached to continued appeals, its failure to act as any kind of deterrent and the shocking epidemic of wrongful convictions all argue in favor of life without parole as the maximum sentence.
Brown, who says he is personally opposed to the death penalty, acknowledges that capital punishment – with its decades of appeals and legal maneuvering – offers little promise of closure to victims’ families.That matches the finding this year by the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission, which highlighted the negative impact that the death penalty has on victims’ families. More than a dozen victims’ families and advocates testified that the death penalty process compounded their pain by putting them through a long, extended process of trials, reversals and retrials, and that life without parole would have been a more
merciful sentence for them.
The bottom line is that New Yorkers have realized that they can live without capital punishment. Life without parole is the better option because it represents swift, sure and effective punishment; but above all, because it avoids the very real risk that an innocent person will be executed.
If Brown wins his argument in the Court of Appeals, Taylor will have decades of taxpayer-funded appeals before (or rather if) he is put to death. Across the state, the creaky legal machinery of capital punishment will fire up once again. Some of Brown’s top prosecutors will spend countless hours refining yet more subtle legal arguments to keep the legal game going indefinitely. As a result, other criminals will go free because of a lack of available resources to prosecute them.
The more attention Brown devotes to Taylor (who will die in prison regardless), the less time, energy and money he has left to keep the public safe.
Brown’s quirky crusade to restore New York’s death penalty benefits no one. Cuomo is exercising wise judgment by opting to keep the “People” out of it.
Kaczynski, whose brother was known as the Unabomber, is the executive director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty.
See also: When DNA Is Not Enough 4/21/07 1p