Ahead of National Police Week, which gives special recognition to law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others, State Senator Joseph Addabbo and Congresswoman Stacey Pheffer Amato introduced legislation mandating life imprisonment without parole for defendants convicted of first-degree murder when the victim is a law enforcement officer.
“Every day, police officers risk their own lives to protect and defend community members, including strangers, so we can all stay safe,” Addabbo said. “The families of slain law enforcement officers, like Constables Mora and Rivera who were killed in the line of duty earlier this year, should never have to endure this pain, and the criminals of these crimes heinous should never, under any circumstances, be considered for release. .”
In 2004, the New York State Court of Appeals determined that New York’s capital punishment law was unconstitutional and unenforceable. In a capital case, in particular, where the jury is deadlocked and unable to agree on death or life without the possibility of parole, the jury would be told that in the event of a deadlock, the trial judge would ultimately decide whether to sentence the accused to as little as 20 years to life or up to life in prison without parole.
The court ruled that this could force the jurors to change their vote in favor of the death penalty, in order to avoid the defendant being released on parole in 20 years. This potential for coercion was found to violate the Due Process Clause of the New York State Constitution.
The court did not consider the death penalty an inappropriate punishment for certain heinous crimes; only that the sentencing process was flawed.
After the Court of Appeals struck down New York’s death penalty law, the Legislature enacted Chapter 765 of the Statutes of 2005, also known as the “Crimes Against Police Act”. Part of that law created the new crime of aggravated murder – deemed to occur when a person intentionally kills a police officer, peace officer or Department of Corrections employee. The only sentence that can be imposed under this 2005 law for the crime of aggravated murder is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
However, the first crime of first degree murder, the charge brought against those who intentionally killed law enforcement officers before the enactment of the Crimes Against Police Officers Act 2005, remained in the books after the Court of Appeal’s decision on the death penalty. law. As such, state law technically continues to provide for prosecutorial discretion by allowing those who murder law enforcement officers to be eligible for parole – in direct contradiction to the intent of the 2005 law.
“I will always have the greatest respect for the men and women who have chosen a career in law enforcement. Let this legislation serve as a warning to criminals in our state that if they kill any of our police officers, they will spend the rest of their lives in prison without the possibility of parole,” said Pheffer Amato. “All members of our communities, especially officers and their families, deserve to know that we value the lives of our heroes .”
This bill seeks to close the loophole that allows the parole of police killers by requiring that mandatory life sentences without parole be imposed for those circumstances without exception.
“Not only will these reprehensible crimes be treated with zero tolerance by requiring convicted cop killers to receive the highest sentence allowed in New York State, but it will also ensure that survivors do not have to relive the ordeal every two years since these criminals will never be considered for parole,” Addabbo concluded.