Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Another Reason to Revile New York’s Justices

Earlier yesterday (Monday October 22, 2007), a divided NY Court of Appeals rescinded the death penalty for John B. Taylor, the man who’d murdered five Wendy’s employees in a fast food eateries basement seven years ago.

The NY Times hailed the 4-3 decision claiming it, “reaffirmed a landmark high court decision in 2004 that effectively invalidated the state’s death penalty law.”

What was at issue is the fact that under current NY state law, if a jury can’t reach a unanimous verdict on the question of death, the trial judge is required to inform the panelists that a sentence, to include parole, will be automatically imposed. The high court ruled in a split decision in 2004 that such jury instructions were unconstitutional, because they could coerce deadlocked jurors to vote for death out of a fear that a violent defendant might one day walk free.

It was out of deference to that case, People v. LaValle, that the high court tossed out Mr. Taylor’s death sentence today, basing its decision largely on the principle of “stare decisis,” a Latin term meaning “let the decision stand.”

For years some apparently illiterate folks have opposed the death penalty based on the grounds that it “violated the cruel and unusual” clause of the Constitution.

That clause means precisely the same thing today that it did back in 1781, it was an admonition against excessive punishments for petty crimes, such as cutting off one’s hands for stealing a loaf of bread, as our modern day Sharia-based Muslim friends are still wont to do.

As a matter of historical record, the death penalty was meted out for a wide variety of crimes in the early days of this country, so, “cruel and unusual” does NOT apply to the death penalty in total.

Current NY State law could easily be rectified by making the penalty phase of such hearings a simple choice between death and life in solitary confinement without possibility of parole.

Eradicate the possibility of parole for such creatures and the entire concern over those directions goes away.

Why can’t New York’s legislature get this right?!

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