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December 23, 2004

Contrasting capital reconsiderations

I noted last week here the interesting fact that Kansas and New York, which both in the mid-1990s after long periods without capital punishment enacted new death penalty laws, now a decade later have both had their capital sentencing procedures declared unconstitutional.  (The ruling of the Kansas Supreme Court in Marsh is discussed here; the New York Court of Appeals ruling in LaValle is discussed here.) 

Also of great interest now is watching Kansas and New York reconsider the death penalty as they contemplate enacting new capital statutes without the now-identified constitutional infirmities.  (Prior post on this topic include Reconsidering the death penalty and Debating death in New York.)

Today we have this interesting article from Kansas detailing that Governor Kathleen Sebelius has now said she likely would sign a bill fixing the state's death penalty law even though, as a state legislator, Sebelius voted against the Kansas death penalty law enacted in 1994.  But, marking a remarkable contrast, this New York Times article details that NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a long-time supporter of capital punishment, is now saying he is not sure New York needs a death penalty law anymore.

The NY Times article is especially interesting for its analysis of politics and pragmatism.  These closing paragraphs highlight some of the article's themes:

Opponents of the death penalty calculate that at least $175 million has been spent on death penalty litigation [without any executions] in the state. Supporters say that the law saves money because defendants plead guilty to lesser offenses, avoiding the cost of trials.

The numbers have persuaded Mr. Silver that there's a "purely pragmatic" argument against a law he voted to enact. Pragmatism and the death penalty. Not a coupling anyone in New York would have imagined 10 years ago.

December 23, 2004 at 02:45 PM | Permalink


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