New York State Assembly Death Penalty Hearings Collection, 1965-2005
- New York (State). Assembly
- The Death Penalty in New York Testimony Collections gathers the testimonials given by 137 witnesses to several committees of the New York State Assembly having to do with sentences involving the death penalty.
- 1.6 cubic ft.
- English and English
- Preferred citation:
- Preferred citation for this material is as follows: and Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, New York State Assembly Death Penalty Hearings Collection, 1965-2005. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as [shortened name]).
Access and Use
- Conditions Governing Access:
Access to this record group is unrestricted.
The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
- Scope and Content:
The Death Penalty in New York Testimony Collection includes testimony given to the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Codes, Assembly Standing Committee on Judiciary, and Assembly Standing Committee on Correction, on December 14, 2004, January 21 and 25, 2005, and February 8 and 11, 2005. The collection includes testimony from 137 witnesses, including officials from grass roots organizations, practicing lawyers, law professors, concerned citizens, religious leaders, former inmates, and families of victims. The collection also includes the Public Hearing reports for each day of hearings, recorded verbatim; a copy of the 1965 Committee for the Revision of the Penal and Criminal Legal Code Special Report on Capital Punishment; and an amicus brief ("friend of the court"), People v. McCoy, filed by Stewart F. Hancock.
This collection lacks biographical information about most of the witnesses, as well as the New York Assembly Committee members. It also lacks a comprehensive timeline for the final decision of the New York State Assembly Committee.
Related collections in the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives can be found in the subject guides for the National Death Penalty Archive and Criminal Justice and Prisons.
- Biographical / Historical:
The Death Penalty in New York Testimony Collection was collected as part of a partnership between the Capital Punishment Research Initiative (CPRI) at the University at Albany's School of Criminal Justice and the University at Albany Libraries. The CPRI, headed by Professors James Acker and Charles Lanier, donated this material in an effort to provide researchers with full coverage of the hearings.
As explained in Death Penalty in New York, A Report on Five Public Hearings (pages 1-4), the New York State Assembly Standing Committees on Codes, Judiciary and Correction held a succession of public hearings in December 2004 through February 2005 on the death penalty in New York in reaction to the June 24, 2004, decision by the New York Court of Appeals to strike down the New York's capital punishment law enacted in 1995. The decision, rendered in People v. LaValle, struck down New York's "deadlock" instruction provision, which had been proposed by Governor Pataki and passed by the New York State Senate in 1995. The "deadlock" instruction provision ordered juries to be instructed that they give one of only two sentencing options, death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole and that they be further instructed that in the event of a jury deadlock that the defendant would be sentenced to a minimum of 20-25 year and a maximum of life imprisonment. It was the decision that jurors might feel coerced into choosing the death penalty to avoid the court deciding to give a defendant a minimum 20-25 year sentence.
When the New York Court of Appeals struck down the "deadlock" provision it completely forbade the operation of the death penalty. However, the Court did agree that life without the possibility of parole was a fair alternative sentence. The decision by the New York Court of Appeals left the New York State Assembly the charge to enact legislation that would reinstate the death penalty, modify the death penalty, or abolish the death penalty. The committees acknowledged that the death penalty in New York had been ineffective. The committees recognized that in the ten years since the law was enacted more than $170 million had been spent in pursuit of death penalty cases, yet no one was executed. In total, four sentences were struck down by the New York Court of Appeals, one sentence was converted to life without parole, and two cases were still in the sentencing process. The committees noted that numerous death row exonerations due to DNA testing had been occurring in the previous ten years and also observed a change in public opinion. The New York State Assembly Standing Committees on Codes, Judiciary and Correction decided that it would formally review New York's death penalty law including its history, the needs of defendants, and the wishes of constituents.
The committees heard oral testimony from 146 witnesses and read written testimony from another 24 witnesses, both of which combined to more than 4,000 transcribed pages. The documents in this collection, however, do not give an indication of the New York State Assembly Standing Committees on Codes, Judiciary and Correction's final decision about capital punishment in New York State. However, the Death Penalty Information Center (http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org) indicates that the Assembly did vote to eliminate the death penalty on April 12, 2005. To read the text of Bill A00851, which repeals the death penalty in New York State, see the laws on the New York State Assembly's web site (http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg).
- Acquisition information:
All items in this manuscript group were donated to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department Special Collections and Archives, by Charles Lanier, of the School of Criminal Justice, the University at Albany, SUNY.
- Processing information:
Processed in 2006 by Sean Heather McGraw.