June 24, 2004

Law - New York High Court Today Invalidates State Death Penalty Provision

Here is the decision, via FindLaw.com, but don't expect to just flip through and find the operative language. The opinion is 57 pages long, a concurring opinion begins on page 58 and runs through 61. A 27-page dissent follows, making the total 88.

In a story headlined "N.Y. Court Ruling Appears to Invalidate Death Sentences," and posted on its website, the NY Times begins with this lead:

New York State's highest court today declared a central provision of the state's nine-year-old death penalty law unconstitutional, assuring that there will be no executions in the state for some time and continuing what has been a tortured legal road for the capital punishment law.

In a 4-3 decision, the state's Court of Appeals said the legislature improperly required judges to tell jurors in capital cases that if they deadlocked, the judge would impose a sentence that would leave the defendant eligible for parole after serving 20 to 25 years. The decision said that represented improper coercion of jurors to vote for execution.

[Update 6/25/04] Here is an updated and longer version of the same story, which today appears on the front page of my NY Times.

Posted by Marcia Oddi at June 24, 2004 05:52 PM