Governor Cuomo Seeks To Permanently Abolish Death Penalty In New York State

Cuomo reacts to Pope Francis’ decree earlier this week that the death penalty is “inadmissible in all cases.”

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NY Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Photo by: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, via Flickr.

Long Island, NY - August 3, 2018 - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this week that he will be introducing legislation that aims to permanently remove the death penalty from New York State law, following a recent decree by Pope Francis that the death penalty is “inadmissible in all cases.”
New York State currently does not have a death penalty – it originally abolished the penalty in 2007, after abolishing and reinstating it multiple times throughout its history – and has not actually executed anyone since 1963, when 34-year-old armed robber Eddie Lee Mays was put to death in the electric chair. The penalty was most recently reinstated in 1995 by Republican Governor George Pataki - authorizing death by lethal injection only - although it was later struck down by the State Supreme Court in 2004 as being unconstitutional. No was was atually executed while the penalty was last active.
Cuomo noted that he made the decision in solidarity with Pope Francis and to honor his father, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, who served at his post from 1983 to 1994; the elder Cuomo recently passed away in 2015. 
Pope Francis announced this week that “executions are unacceptable in all cases because they are an attack on human dignity…the church will work with determination to abolish capital punishment worldwide.”
This represents a reversal of sorts for the church, as previous doctrine was not entirely opposed to the concept of capital punishment, sometimes noting that it could be the “only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” However, since his papacy began in 2013, Pope Francis has made abolishing the death penalty one of his main goals.
Governor Cuomo called the death penalty an “ugly stain” on the history of New York, and vowed this week to remove it from the books once and for all so that is could never be reinstated again. Cuomo issued the following statement on the matter, driving home his determination to eliminate capital punishment from the confines of New York via legislation that he intends to introduce to state lawmakers in the near future.
"By declaring the death penalty inadmissible in all cases and working to end the practice globally, Pope Francis is ushering in a more righteous world for us all. The death penalty is morally indefensible and has no place in the 21st century.
"Pope Francis's decision is a validation of my father's principled stand against the death penalty in the face of overwhelming support for capital punishment. My father staked his political career on his opposition to the death penalty and never backed down, saying it 'demeans those who strive to preserve human life and dignity.' 
"As Governor, Mario Cuomo vetoed legislation reinstating the death penalty 12 times in 12 years. He did this because he believed the death penalty was wrong and he had the courage to stand firm in his beliefs -- so much so that he was willing to lose his office rather than capitulate.  Pop was right then, and he is right now.
"The death penalty was reinstated in New York under the Pataki administration but halted by the courts in 2004. In his final years, my father continued to advocate for eliminating the law from the books, calling it a 'stain on our conscience.' Today, in solidarity with Pope Francis and in honor of my father, I will be advancing legislation to remove the death penalty -- and its ugly stain in our history -- from State law once and for all."
A recent study by professors of the University of Colorado noted that 88 percent of leading criminologists do not believe that the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime. A previous 1996 study stated similar conclusions. However, recent Gallup opinion polls indicate that many members of the American public support the idea of capital punishment, particularly in cases of murder.