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Monday, August 22, 2011

The Hanging of Nathan Foster - Traitor and Spy

Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Imagine a gallows in a dusty town in the old west. A tumbleweed rolls by. The sheriff is leaning against a post, chewing a plug of tobacco, contemplating the hanging that will take place. A stranger sidles up, asks the sheriff "Why you stringin' the guy up?" The sheriff spits and says "Because he needs hangin' is why" Fade to Masonville, N.Y. in 1819.

Nathan Foster hired the biggest legal guns of the time to defend himself against the capital murder charge of killing his wife. But in the eyes of patriots who had fought long and hard in the Revolutionary War, Foster needed hanging regardless. They weren't about to let this guy go. He'd been an anathema for forty years.

Foster was from Cherry Valley, one of the oldest settlements in upstate New York on the western edge of the frontier. There were still Indians aplenty, who sided with the British in the war. Foster did not join either the Continental Army or the local militia, although he would have been of a prime age. Because of this, suspicion was aroused that he was in collusion with the British - a "cowboy" in Revolutionary War lexicon. It would be difficult to call him a British sympathizer since the man was probably not capable of it. It would be more accurate to say that Foster's spy-work went to the highest bidder - the British by a long shot.

Cherry Valley was in a strategic location - a good lookout point to forewarn other settlements of Indian activities. The town had been built precariously on a main trail the Indians used to travel from the Mohawk to the Susquehanna River and back. The settlers of Cherry Valley were rightfully nervous about Indian attacks after the Revolutionary War went into high gear. They were able to convincingly present the case in Albany to General Lafayette that they needed a fort built and an army garrison sent, the sooner the better. Gen. LaFayette agreed that protection was needed, but his resources were stretched to the limit so a compromise was made. Militia Colonel Samuel Campbell would have his house fortified and enclosed and would have the authority to call on militia forces whenever he deemed it necessary. From this sturdy fort above the settlement, a discerning eye could be kept not only on Indians and British, but on suspected spies as well.

Foster had land on the Schenevus Creek outside Cherry Valley, right on the Indian trail. It was known that he had been holding communications with the infamous Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant, furnishing him with provisions and information. According to an account later written by James Campbell, the son of Col. Samuel Campbell, Col. Campbell badly wanted Foster caught, but Foster was too elusive to catch even for Col. Campbell, a very distinguished and capable militia commander. In fact, it was so maddening they began to call his hideout "the devil's half acre."

As a measure of how how much value was placed on capturing Foster, a scheme was concocted that sent five men down the Susquehanna River to get a bead on Foster, with Sam McKean in the lead dressed as an Indian. (Sam McKean was the son of Captain Robert McKean, a well known hero of the war.) Still, Foster eluded them.

After the war, the end of which was indeterminate in places like Otsego County, Tories and British sympathizers were for the most part allowed back on the properties they had abandoned, although sometimes not. Whether they wanted to chance coming back and when, depended on the circumstances under which they had left. Some land in Otsego County was confiscated. Many former Tories accepted land in Canada that King George III had granted them, figuring they wouldn't be very popular back in their home towns. A few came back and were killed but they were the ones who committed atrocities that could never be forgiven.

Masonville Might Not Remember

The Fosters were never popular to begin with. They managed to stay in Cherry Valley until around 1800 and were gone before 1810 according to census information, presumably with cash to spare. The whole Foster clan decamped to Masonville, New York, a town a little more than fifty miles southwest of Cherry Valley. Nathan Foster had probably earned himself not only a handsome grubstake during the war but a notoriety that was lying in wait until the first time he made a serious misstep. Maybe he thought he wouldn't be known in Masonville, or maybe he didn't care, but it turned out that people had a long memory for traitors.

Foster had that one heavy and lifelong strike against him moving into Masonville, but it didn't take long for people to see that he was also an ill tempered, nasty man. Everyone seemed to like Eleanor, his wife, or at least felt sorry for her. Their children grew up to be respectable citizens.

Nathan Foster, at around 60 years of age, was accused of poisoning and killing Eleanor, "old El," with arsenic toward the end of January 1819. He had impregnated a hired girl and it was presumed that the reason he wanted to dose "old El" was so that he and the girl could live happily ever after. It sounds very cut and dried and yet the hard facts of the case mattered not nearly as much as the fact that he was nothing but a "stinkin' Tory" who finally went too far.

Two Dream Teams

No court case in Delaware County before or since has garnered so many heavy hitting trial attorneys in one courtroom as the Foster trial. The defense was the dream team of its day. Foster had hired the 46-year old former Major-General of the New York State Militia Erastus Root, a prominent lawyer and sitting member of the New York State Assembly in 1819. Hon. Samuel Sherwood also served the defense, an interesting match with Root since they had had serious political differences in the past and would again in the future. Sherwood had been a U.S. congressman for one term. He was in partnership with Col. Amasa Parker, a well known Delhi, N.Y. attorney also sitting for the defense. Completing the team was John Sudam, who went on to become a New York State Senator. To say that this was the best legal defense money could buy was an understatement. If it was perceived that Foster's defense was funded by what he had collected from the British from his spying days, it was one more reason to hate him.

Going up against this formidable team, Delaware County District Attorney William Elting would be joined in the prosecution by a 36 year old lawyer who was making a name for himself in state politics. His wife had died of tuberculosis almost five months before the trial, leaving him with 4 sons, ages 2-12. He didn't want to spend the hottest part of the summer in the wilds of New York, but being New York State Attorney General, since this was a capital case, he had a responsibility. New York's Governor DeWitt Clinton ordered him to go. His name was Martin Van Buren, later to become the 8th president of the United States.

There are some who would say this was a plum case for Van Buren, that hanging a spy and traitor would be a useful item on a political resume'. But he seemed genuinely to have preferred to stay in Albany, where he was worried about what his political rivals would be doing in his absence. Elting must have been glad to see Van Buren, with the prospect of facing those four brilliant, established lawyers alone.

The first witnesses for the prosecution were neighbors Nathan Baxter and his wife, who said they were summoned by Foster (from then on referred to as "the prisoner") on a January night a little after 8:00 p.m. - they were already in bed for heaven's sake - to come quickly because El was really sick. They threw on some clothes and went to the Foster house to watch El vomit until about midnight. They thought she had started to rally so they went back home. It was barely dawn when they were called again to the Foster home where they found El still throwing up and now gasping for breath and wracked with pain.

Van Buren elicited from Baxter that he had suspected poisoning, but hadn't wanted to say anything at the time. El died Friday morning around 11:00. Baxter claimed that the next time he went to the Foster house was Saturday morning. Polly Moshier was there, the hired girl, "wringing her hands and crying." Baxter had asked Foster how much tea El drank before she got sick and Foster had gotten defensive and told him there was no poison in it. Baxter had also sat with a very edgy Foster while the doctors were performing the autopsy (in the house, which was the custom - you couldn't go dragging a corpse all over the countryside.) When Van Buren asked Baxter to characterize Foster in general, he said in effect that he was a violent, crude and unhappy man. With Baxter for a neighbor, Foster must have wished he had chosen a more secluded place to live.

Early Friday morning, the Foster's son John left word for Masonville's own Dr. Pliny Smith to come to the Foster's as quickly as possible. It seemed like forever until he got there and he hadn't even had a chance to prepare any medicine before El up and died. Dr. Smith testified as to what they found at the autopsy and offered his opinion that El had definitely died of arsenic poisoning. (This was based on primitive testing processes available at the time. The chances of samples being contaminated at any point in the process were high.) Drs. Nathan Boynton and William Knapp of Bainbridge, who had also been present at the autopsy, corroborated what Dr. Smith had said - no doubt in their minds that El had died of arsenic poisoning.

Esther Shaw was next on the stand. She had worked for the Foster's for a few months the previous year. She said Foster hit on her every chance he got and offered her trinkets and such to let him have his way with her. Esther said Polly Moshier had returned to work for the Foster's a little while after Esther had been hired and it was no secret to her that Polly and Foster were involved.

When Esther saw Foster bring rat poison in the house she marched right over to the Baxter's and predicted that El would be poisoned within six months to a year. So Mrs. Baxter had to be hauled back on the witness stand to testify that she had been upset enough by what Esther had said that she had confronted El about it. El said Esther was so violent that she as soon would kill a person as not and furthermore El wasn't the least bit afraid of Polly. Apparently El and Esther hadn't worked well together.
The Foster's oldest son Robert testified that when it looked as if Dr. Smith was never going to show up that Friday morning, he urged his brother John to go to Bainbridge for another doctor. His father did everything he could to discourage or delay John from going. That Saturday, Robert said he had popped in the local store and heard rumors about his father killing El in order to be with Polly. He confronted his father about it, which Foster denied. Robert told him there was going to be an autopsy and Foster sort of broke down at that point. When Robert said the family was planning on a Sunday funeral, his father said that was too long to have a corpse around the house.

Robert himself broke down on the stand when he was asked about family dynamics. It was no surprise that his father was abusive to all of them but particularly to John, because he was the youngest and El's favorite. Robert said that in November his father had offered him the farm if he would give him a horse and some money and take care of El so he could get out of the country. It could be argued that that idea had come to him about forty years too late.

John Foster testified next. He confirmed Robert's testimony and added that when he visited his father in jail in February, his father accused him of having caused all the trouble because during the night that El was so violently ill, John had taken the horse to tell his sister about their mother's condition, thus preventing anyone from taking the horse to get a doctor that night. By then, Foster was saying that if anyone had poisoned El it was "that damned bitch Polly."

The Star Witness

The prosecution's witnesses to this point were unquestionably biased against Foster, each for his or her own reasons. Twenty-three year old Polly Moshier had more reason than any of them to hate him. Yet he was the father of her baby and she had in fact come back to the Foster's when she got the chance. Polly was a sympathetic character - she had been kicked around her whole life. She weeped piteously on the stand. Yet seen from an another angle, she might have stood to gain more than most if El was dead. Polly had access to the rat poison too. She had been arrested right along with Foster. After she had endured time in jail and after a three day coroner's inquest, she was absolved of having any part in the murder. Now she was being offered up for public shame and ridicule, all on Foster's account.

She started out by describing her employment at the Foster's starting in May of 1817. When Van Buren then told Polly she was going to have to be explicit about her intimacies with Foster, she started sobbing. Van Buren assured her that he was just as sorry as he could be, but her testimony was necessary. After she got hold of herself, she described how she had rebuffed Foster's attempted seductions and briberies of dollar bills and new gowns until that summer, when she finally caved in. At that time, he had offered her a two year old heifer but she did not say that was what clinched the deal or if she ever received it.

Around January the following year, 1818, it was obvious she was exploding with pregnancy. Foster dropped her off in Bainbridge, suggesting a woman to stay with until the baby was born and then saying she should fork the baby over to his son. She told him that was out of the question. From Bainbridge she landed in Roxbury, where she had the baby in March. She said they were mean to her there, so she went to Stamford, and then on to another home and finally heard that the Foster's wanted her back so she returned. It is not known if El ever knew Polly's baby was fathered by her husband.

Polly claimed she had learned her lesson by then and she wasn't about to let Foster touch her again. Not that that stopped Foster from trying for over 30 seconds. She said he kept offering to take her 100 miles away where no one would know them and they would be as good as married. (He had discovered the hard way that 50 miles was not enough.) Polly asked him where El fit into all of it. What Polly said next had to have sent the sheriff running for the rope - Foster said he had 'ratsbane' in the house and he "could fix old El." Polly said Foster had even approached her about running off the very morning El was dying.
Polly then described a scene that took place before the coroner's inquest that could have come straight out of a vaudeville act. The lawyer at the inquest, Sherman Page of Unadilla, cooked up a scheme to get Foster to admit in front of witnesses that he had poisoned El. He put two men in a room above Foster's so they could see and hear everything that was said and sent Polly in by herself. Apparently the two men got an eyeful but not one they expected. Foster was too cagey to say anything to Polly but that didn't mean he had no business to attend to with her. He wound up chasing her around the room with his clothes half off, trying to lift her skirt. Polly wasn't aware that they were being watched and to her credit, she kept him backed off. He eventually got angry and told her he'd be damned if he'd do anything to clear her name.

The prosecution wrapped up with Wareham Willis, Masonville's Justice of the Peace, acting coroner, and an acquaintance of Foster's who actually didn't seem to hate him. Willis said Foster hounded him about how the inquest was going every day and by the time Foster knew his goose was cooked, he offered Willis his farm if he would help him get out of the country. Willis said no, of course.

The Defense

For all the money that was being spent for Foster's defense attorneys, they offered only one main witness, but he was an outstanding one. Even today, superlatives remain inadequate to describe him. Dr. Joseph White was one of the most renowned surgeons of his time in addition to being a highly respected legal expert. He was from Cherry Valley and had known the Fosters for thirty years. He had been aboard naval ships during two Revolutionary War battles. It might be imagined that he would be the last person to speak in Foster's defense, but if nothing else, Dr. White was unimpeachably ethical and would never say anything untrue no matter who was paying him. That's what made his testimony very compelling even though in the end, it didn't help Foster.

The defense wanted to establish first that Foster had a valid reason for objecting to El's autopsy - that Foster was Irish and the Irish are "averse to having a corpse opened and would never consent to it."
Next Dr. White went over the four methods of determining the presence of arsenic, only one of which he considered foolproof and that one had not been performed in the Foster case. White would not be browbeaten into saying whether arsenic was the absolute cause of death. After some legal and medical semantics, Van Buren worded it such that Dr. White agreed to say there was nothing that rendered it improbable that El's death was occasioned by arsenic. Boiling out the double negatives, Dr. White really didn't commit one way or the other for the defense or the prosecution. More to the point, Dr. White was not present at the autopsy, so there was only so much he could say about it.

After Dr. White, three local men were called to discredit Esther Shaw's reputation as that of a busybody full of loose talk, but they admitted that they didn't know what she had said on the stand so they couldn't judge that.

El's brother was called on the stand last to testify that the family was prone to Cholera-Morbus. That was handily discounted by the prosecution because the disease doesn't produce the kind of stomach inflammation that El had suffered. With that, the defense was finished.

Midnight Summation

In their summation, the defense reiterated the reasons that there was enough reasonable doubt to acquit Foster. One point they hit hard was that El could have taken the rat poison herself. It was a valid point, but it was a possibility that could never be proven. The eminent Dr. White had put into question the opinions of the three local doctors for the prosecution who said El had definitely died of arsenic poisoning, neutralizing that damage somewhat. And that's all they really had.

Elting spoke briefly, but Van Buren really proved his mettle as a trial lawyer and orator as he held the standing attention of a hushed courtroom for over two hours, obliterating the defense's case point by point, without notes. It was one of the most riveting prosecution summations ever heard.

There had been no overnight break for the jury, typical of the time. Van Buren's summation had gone on past midnight. After the judge's instructions, the jury started deliberating at 4:00 in the morning. A few hours later the verdict was in. Foster had been found guilty and was sentenced be hanged in early August, in a little over a month.

Foster maintained his innocence to the end. However on three separate occasions that we know of, he had tried to enlist an outside party to help him escape, so possibly he went to the gallows believing to the last minute that he could disappear one more time - it had always worked for him in the past. In any case, admitting guilt was a no-win situation for him.

Psychological profiling is a useful tool in modern law enforcement. In examining Foster's case, we are presented with a 60 year old man with a history of disloyalty to family and country, widely disliked in the community. He had been married to El for over thirty years and in that time, it would be safe to assume that he had been a serial philanderer. He appeared to have enough money to do whatever he wanted.

The question then arises, why would he kill El at that point in time? He wasn't head over heels in love with Polly and he stood to gain nothing materially from killing El. He could have disappeared at any point before her death and even shortly after. If nagging or her mere presence had driven him to homicide, why didn't he do it ten or twenty years earlier?

El was over 60 years of age, and overweight by the standards of her day. We know now that stroke and heart attacks, particularly in women, can present with atypical symptoms similar to what was described about El's condition. The vomiting would be rare but not unheard of, enough to cast a shadow of a doubt in a murder trial, but apparently not in Nathan Foster's case. Dr. White went as far as he could without coming right out and saying that whatever El had in her stomach couldn't have stayed there long enough to kill her, what with her continual vomiting and thirst.

Esther Shaw had been described by El herself as violent, an odd term for someone that you simply didn't like. Esther had as much access to the poison as anyone in the household and made no secret of the fact that she and El were frequently at odds. She didn't care for the likes of Polly or Foster either, potentially adding another reasonable doubt in Foster's defense.

There's a good chance that Erastus Root and the other defense attorneys knew this was a losing case going into it. They were all political animals, so the publicity would have been appealing either way. They may have drooled at the chance to match wits with Martin Van Buren, although it could be argued that that hadn't quite worked out to their best advantage. And at the end of the day, they got paid whether Foster hung or not.

It is significant that Governor Clinton ordered Attorney General Van Buren to prosecute what may have appeared on the surface to have been an open and shut case. Martin Van Buren did as much as anyone in leading Foster to the gallows. In that, he was in the good company of men who forty years previously had thought Foster a dangerous enough risk to call in their own big guns to capture him. Whether Foster killed his wife or not, his hanging was a final satisfying footnote of the Revolutionary War - a spy who was finally caught - late, but not too late.

On August 6, 1819, Nathan Foster was hung by the neck until dead from a tall tree on Cherry Hill in Masonville. He was not buried with the rest of his family. Today his headstone is part of the foundation of a barn and his remains lie under a busy highway.

(Author Bio) - Karen Bedford is a lifelong resident of Central New York with a particular interest in the 19th century. Through her work in genealogy, Karen was inspired to research and write about some of the more sensational aspects of the era, as well as normal rural life in Central New York.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

New York Without a Death Penalty: 1976-1995

Copyright ©2011 All rights reserved.

Part I: Introduction

Can the state take a life? Should one person or a small group of people have the ultimate power to decide who lives and who dies? These are the questions that plagued the minds of the legislators and governors in New York during a nearly twenty year period following the invalidation of the state’s death penalty statute. The state Senate and Assembly managed year after year, beginning in 1977, to pass a bill that would reinstate the death penalty in New York State. But two governors, Hugh L. Carey (1975-1982) and Mario M. Cuomo (1983-1994), refused to sign the bill into law year after year. The backgrounds of these governors led to the vetoing of nineteen consecutive death penalty bills from the New York State legislature, something never seen before in the history of state. A better understanding of the death penalty issue can be gained by examining the history of the death penalty in New York State, how the Supreme Court’s

decisions in Furman v. Georgia (1972) and Gregg v. Georgia (1976) affected New York State law, and what were the arguments made by the two sides of the capital punishment debate. To uncover the story of this epic battle played out, a number of questions will need answering: How did the personal views of Governor Hugh L. Carey and his successor, Governor Mario Cuomo, prevent the legislature from reinstating the death penalty during their terms in office? Were the bills that Carey and Cuomo vetoed substantially different from the bill later passed into law by Governor George Pataki? Did public support for the death penalty change in New York State between the Supreme Court’s decision in 1972 and Pataki’s election in 1994? I propose that neither the content of the bills passed by the legislature nor public opinion affected the fate of the death penalty in New York State. It is my contention that the backgrounds and personal beliefs of Governor Hugh L. Carey and Governor Mario M. Cuomo were the sole arbiter in the New York death penalty battle between 1977 and 1994.

Part II: Background
Colonial Origins

According to Daniel Allen Hearn, in Legal Executions in New York State: 1639-1963,[1] the earliest executions in New York State took place in the seventeenth century Dutch colony of New Netherlands. This colony, which encompassed an area from Albany and Schenectady southward to New York City and Long Island, was the first European settlement in the state. The Dutch only executed seven people, beginning with Gregory Peterson in 1639.[2] Two of these men were pedophiles, while the other five were charged with mutiny. Only one black man, Jan Creoli, was executed. He was charged with pederasty, which is the rape of a boy.

The English took control of the colony starting in 1664, when its name was changed to the Province of York. The application of the death sentence ignored gender and racial boundaries under English rule. Officials executed Angel Hendricks in 1669, after she murdered her illegitimate child.[3] The English executed seventeen other women for crimes including arson, burglary, murder, and grand larceny.[4] The executions of blacks and Native Americans occurred in comparable numbers to the execution of whites. Approximately half of the almost two hundred people executed by the English in New York State were black or Native Americans. [5] Executable crimes included high treason, mutiny, rape, murder, counterfeiting, robbery, burglary, piracy, and horse theft.[6] The methods of execution at this time were hanging, burning at the stake and death by firing squad.

The American Experience with Death

The first executions in New York State under the new American government began in 1776, the same year the Revolutionary War began. [7] At first, these executions continued to be public spectacles, as they had been under colonial rule. Men, women, and children flocked to these executions willingly, as though they were attending a picnic or festival. According to Christopher S. Kudlac, in Public Executions: The Death Penalty and the Media, “the death was designed so that the crowd would not soon forget the offender or his/her crime”. [8] The executions were gruesome, and often the bodies were disemboweled, beheaded, or burned in full view of the crowd. Because riots were a constant risk at public viewings, in 1835, New York State decided to move all executions out of the public eye and put them behind prison walls. [9] The last public execution under New York State law was the hanging of John Damon, who murdered his wife, on May 15, 1835 in Mayville.[10]

For most of the nineteenth century, hanging was the most common form of execution within the New York State penal system. During this era, executions were reserved for those who committed first-degree murder, arson, or treason.[11] On December 6, 1889, convicted murderer John Theodore Wild became the last person executed by hanging in New York State. [12] An engineer named Harold Brown developed a new method of execution: death by electrocution. After he experimented on dogs by electrocuting them with alternating and direct current, proving direct current was safer for home use, Brown was invited by Thomas Edison to work in his laboratory.[13] Edison wanted Brown to develop a chair which would electrocute the condemned using alternating current, which Edison considered a humane form of execution.[14] After testing the chair on animals, Edison convinced the New York State government to become the first state to pass a law adopting the electric chair as a legal form of execution in 1888.[15] In 1890, the electric chair made its debut in the execution of William Kemmler at Auburn Prison.[16] According to stories in the press, Kemmler had to be shocked twice, as the first administration of electrical current failed to kill him. This led to some controversy over the humaneness of the electric chair as an execution method in the public forum.[17]

Opposition Grows

In the days following the execution of Kemmler, lawyers for several death row inmates vowed to petition the governor and have a bill presented to the legislature to repeal the law which allowed for the use of the electric chair.[18] Efforts to fight the death penalty continued, as bills to abolish it were introduced in the legislature in 1890, 1892, 1893, and 1899. [19] Then in the 1920’s, death penalty opponents revived their fight, and each year during that decade, bills were introduced into the legislature calling for the end of the death penalty.[20] In 1925, in an unusual move, the warden of Sing Sing Prison took over the chairmanship of an organization called the League for the Abolition of Capital Punishment. [21] According to the New York Times, after a lifetime of service to the New York State penal system, Lewis Lawes no longer believed that the death penalty served as a deterrent, and he argued for life imprisonment instead.[22] Just three years later, the Assembly killed a bill which would have called for a state-wide referendum on the electric chair.[23] In 1937, a jury was allowed to recommend life imprisonment in lieu of the death penalty for first-degree murder.[24] Each year between 1937 and 1941, bills were introduced in the legislature that would substitute life imprisonment for the death penalty.[25] By 1963, the death penalty had fallen out of favor with the New York State legislature. That year, they passed an amendment to the state’s penal code eliminating mandatory death sentences. [26] On August 15, 1963, New York executed its last criminal, Eddie Lee Mays. A convicted murderer, Mays was the last victim of the electric chair in New York State.

The Supreme Court Takes on the Death Penalty

The 1963 Supreme Court case Rudolph v. Alabama[27] was the first time a member of the Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of the death penalty. In his dissent, Justice Arthur Goldberg argued that the death penalty violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Following Justice Goldberg’s lead, lawyers from the NAACP began organizing test cases to bring before the Supreme Court.[28] The first two cases, United States v. Jackson[29] and Witherspoon v. Illinois[30], came before the Court in 1968. In Jackson, the court ruled that the federal kidnapping law was unconstitutional because it forced defendants to plead guilty, depriving them of their right to a jury trial, since the death penalty was only imposed in cases that went to trial.[31] In Witherspoon, the court decided that by dismissing all potential jurors who objected to the death penalty, the prosecution had deprived the defendant of his rights to an impartial jury and due process of the law.[32] The next year, in Boykin v. Alabama[33], the court decided a case of a young black man sentenced to die by an Alabama jury after entering a guilty plea on five counts of robbery. The Supreme Court held that the Alabama court had made a mistake by accepting this young man’s guilty plea because he made no statement before the court as to the fact of the case, so it could not be assumed that he entered this plea knowingly and voluntarily.[34] None of these cases touched on the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment that Goldberg had argued the death penalty violated.

Then in 1972, three cases involving the death penalty came before the court. In the first, Furman v. Georgia[35], the petitioner Furman was sentenced to death after accidentally shooting a homeowner in the course of committing a robbery.[36] The court decided to consolidate the two other cases Jackson v. Georgia and Branch v. Texas, which both involved the imposition of the death penalty for rape, into the Furman decision. In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court decided that jury discretion produced a random pattern in determining who would receive the death penalty and that this randomness violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.[37] In his concurring opinion, Justice William Douglas argued that the poor and minorities were more likely to receive a death sentence under existing death penalty statutes. Justice Potter Stewart argued that receiving the death penalty for a crime was like getting hit by lightning because death sentences were random and infrequent. Justice Byron White said that the irregularity of death sentences prevented them from having the desired deterrent effect on society. Justices William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall both opposed the death penalty on moral grounds, and found it to be debasing and offensive to humanity.

The Furman decision invalidated existing death penalty statutes in the thirty-nine states with a death penalty statute, including New York State, and continued the moratorium placed on executions by the Supreme Court in 1967. Florida became the first state to pass a new death penalty law designed to meet the Eighth Amendment test of the Supreme Court in December of that year.[38] Other states, including Ohio, Georgia, and California, soon followed.[39] In 1973, the Court of Appeals ruled that the New York State statute was unconstitutional.[40] The legislature quickly introduced new legislation to reinstate a limited form of the death penalty. On May 17, 1974, New York Governor Malcolm Wilson signed a bill into law which mandated the death penalty in cases involving the murder of police and prison employees, and for inmates who committed murder while already facing life imprisonment. [41] Within a few years, thirty-four state legislators had rewritten their death penalty statutes, but there was still a voluntary moratorium on executions by the states until the Supreme Court reached a definitive decision on the issue. [42]

In 1976, the Supreme Court heard a series of cases testing the constitutionality of the newly rewritten death penalty laws in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Texas. In Gregg v. Georgia[43], the court upheld a Georgia statute which guided judges and juries considering the death penalty because it protected against randomized sentencing and the reckless imposition of death disproportionate to the crime committed.[44] Under the same argument, the court upheld the death penalty statutes of Texas[45] and Florida[46]. However, in Woodson v. North Carolina[47], the court decided that the statutes which required mandatory death sentences for certain crimes were unconstitutional because they treated defendants as a mass, instead of individuals.[48] This ruling not only invalidated the death penalty statute in North Carolina, but the one in Louisiana.[49] The rulings in these five cases ended the voluntary moratorium on the death penalty by the states, and executions resumed in 1977. In New York, the legislature scrambled to broaden the state’s death penalty statute under the guidance of the Supreme Court’s recent rulings, despite Governor Carey’s stated opposition to capital punishment. Thus began the nearly two-decades-long struggle over the death penalty between the state’s executive and legislative branches which would span two governorships.

The Controversy: Arguments For and Against the Death Penalty

In the background of the public policy events leading up to New York’s battle over life and death was the public debate over the merits of the death penalty. In Death Nation: the Experts Explain American Capital Punishment, Matthew B. Robinson outlines the arguments of both sides of the capital punishment controversy.[50] He argues that the main arguments for death penalty have historically been its alleged deterrent effect, vengeance and retribution, and incapacitation.[51] The main arguments for those who oppose the death penalty are the excessive costs involved in the appeals process, the arbitrary and discriminatory manner in which it is applied, and the possibility of executing an innocent person.[52] Robinson avoids the moral arguments made against the death penalty, preferring to analyze the supposed problems associated with the practice of the death penalty in America.[53]

Those who support the death penalty make a number of arguments to support their position, according to Robinson. The first of these is vengeance and retribution. Vengeance is meant to bring satisfaction to family members or friends of the victim who feel that there needs to be for recompense for the crime, while retribution is a legally-sponsored way to balance the scales of justice for society.[54] Some supporters argue that the death penalty serves as the ultimate form of incapacitation in preventing recidivism by a murder.[55] Another argument often made for the death penalty is that it serves a deterrent effect in society, preventing those who might have killed from doing so to avoid execution.[56] Although this is a very common belief among supporters of capital punishment, only nine percent of the experts interviewed by Robinson think that the death penalty actually achieves a deterrent effect.[57]

Robinson also discusses the arguments made by opponents of capital punishment.

Some argue that the death penalty is too political in nature. Others cite the excessive cost to the state in paying for the legal fees involved with the often multiple appeals made by criminals sentenced to death. [58] One of the major arguments made in the opposition movement, which the Supreme Court adopted in its Furman decision, is that the death penalty is often applied in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner. The court said that this randomness and infrequency and racial bias with which the death penalty was applied, violated the Eighth Amendment. Thirty years after the Furman decision, eighty-four percent of the experts in Robinson’s study still believe that the death penalty is racially biased.[59] Another frequent argument used by opponents of capital punishment is that sometimes innocent people are wrongly executed. The use of DNA evidence has exonerated scores of death row inmates, erroneously imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.[60]

Catholic View of the Death Penalty

Another perspective on the death penalty, which is especially relevant to the discussion that will follow, is the position of the Catholic Church. There has been an ongoing debate in the Catholic Church over whether the death penalty should be supported or opposed. According to a piece by Avery Cardinal Dulles S.J., “Catholic Teaching on the Death Penalty: Has it Changed?”, the church has historically supported the death penalty, and still did at the papal level in extreme cases during the papacy of Pope John Paul II.[61] According to Dulles, the Catechism of the Council of Trent (which was written in the sixteenth century) outlines the Catholic beliefs in regard to the death penalty. The Catechism supported capital punishment because it served the purposes of retribution, rehabilitation, defense of society against crime, and deterrence.[62] In his article, Dulles suggests, “The death penalty should not be abolished. It should remain in law, and its implementation should be a possibility.”[63]

Despite this apparent support in the doctrines of the church, the United States Catholic Conference has taken a different stance on the issue. In 1974, this organization composed of American bishops, voted to declare its opposition to capital punishment. The bishops released a statement in November of 1980 outlining their views on the issue.[64] They believe that the abolition of the death penalty is in accordance with their Christian values. “It is a manifestation of our freedom as moral persons striving for a just society.”[65] The bishops argued that the death penalty violated the dignity of human life and inconsonant with the teachings of Jesus, who advocated forgiveness of injustices.[66] Dulles cites that the opposition movement among Catholic theologians formed following the discovery of the horrors of Nazi death camps and Stalinist Russia[67].

Part IV: Review of Existing Literature

Several scholars have addressed the events surrounding the New York State Legislature’s attempts to reinstate the death penalty following the Furman decision. These articles focus primarily on the legislative side of the battle, and pay little attention to the role that Governors Carey and Cuomo played. In their article, “A ‘Commonsense’ Theory of Deterrence and the ‘Ideology’ of Science: The New York State Death Penalty Debate”, James M. Galliher and John F. Galliher analyze the arguments for the death penalty made by legislators in the Senate and Assembly. [68] James R. Adolf, in “Final Passage: How New York’s Struggle Supports a Supermajority Requirement for Enactment of the Death Penalty,” explains why there could be no compromise between sides in the debate, and how a supermajority vote would ensure fairness.[69]

Galliher and Galliher, sociologists from the University of Missouri, take a look at how New York’s legislators refused to change their positions on the death penalty, even when presented with conflicting evidence in “A ‘Commonsense’ Theory of Deterrence and the ‘Ideology’ of Science”. They studied the speeches made during debate on the death penalty on the Senate and Assembly floors from 1977-1995, and analyzed the content of these statements. The issue of deterrence was raised 590 times during this period, while the issues of racism and innocence were raised 265 and 204 times, respectively.[70] The authors argued that the legislators who argued that the death penalty served as a deterrent for crime suffered from cognitive dissonance, the inability to resolve two conflicting beliefs in one’s mind, leading to the denial of any evidence which might oppose one’s opinion. In the case of the deterrence argument, sociologists published numerous studies disproving the idea that capital punishment prevented crime. When presented with the evidence from these studies by other legislators, they made statements like this one from Assemblyman Kremer, “‘I don’t work with charts…I am in the real world.’”[71] Galliher and Galliher argue that the legislators developed their own form of “commonsense” theory regarding the deterrence effect of the death penalty. It relied more on an incapacitation argument and street logic then empirical evidence. Those who supported the deterrence theory argued that rising crime rates in New York were caused by the absence of executions, and that murderers who were dead could not murder again. This is why Galliher and Galliher believe that the death penalty bill which ultimately passed in 1995 included the following statement, “‘the enactment of the death penalty will…send a strong message to persons who might be inclined to commit such crimes,’”[72] despite strong evidence to the contrary.

In “Final Passage”, Adolf explores the legislative attempts to reinstate the death penalty in New York State, centering on the 1995 bill signed by then Governor George Pataki. Adolph also discusses how death penalty legislation is "winner-take-all" because there is no room for compromise between opposing sides in the debate. Adolf points out that there is no room for compromise in the death penalty debate because those who oppose it will not be satisfied with any measure that allows the state to take a life. This is the type of moral argument that Robinson avoids in his discussion. Adolf also argues that the state should require “supermajority” votes (2/3 of the legislature or more) to prevent a large minority from being left out of the legislative process in issues where this no room for compromise.[73] He explains that there were basically four groups of Democrats (the majority party) in the New York State Assembly during the battle over capital punishment. There were those who voted against the death penalty, those who personally opposed the bill but voted for it for political reasons (because they never thought the bill would pass), those who wanted to make sure the death penalty would be fair, and those who wanted an expansive death penalty measure.[74] He argues that although there were enough Democrats in the last two groups to help the death penalty bill pass in the Assembly in 1995 (and the previous eighteen years), the groups that opposed the death penalty were large enough to render the issue unstable.[75] That is why the death penalty could never garner enough support to overcome the vetoes of Carey and Cuomo in the Assembly.

Both of these articles provide a unique perspective on the debate which raged in the New York State legislature for the period between the Furman decision and Governor Pataki taking office in 1995. However, neither work accounts for the role of the executive in the repeated failure of the death penalty bill. My contention is that the background and personal experiences of these two governors, Carey and Cuomo, is what accounts for the absence of a death penalty law in New York State for nearly twenty years.

Part IV: The Carey Administration
The Early Years

Hugh L. Carey was born on April 11, 1919 to Dennis and Margaret (Collins) Carey.[76] Hugh was one of six children. He was a second-generation American; both sets of his grandparents emigrated from Ireland. Carey’s father ran a struggling oil and kerosene delivery service in Brooklyn to support his growing family.[77] A practicing Roman Catholic, young Hugh served as an altar boy through most of his childhood. He attended St. Augustine’s Grammar and High School, and later St. John’s University, a Catholic college in New York City.[78] In order to pay for his education, Carey signed up for the National Guard. World War II suspended his education, when his division was sent into heavy fighting in Europe. During his tour of duty, he helped to liberate Nordhausen concentration camp in Germany. The depravity of the Nazi death camp sensitized the sheltered young man to the dignity of human life.[79] After the war, Carey resumed his education and majored in history at St. John’s. In 1947, he married a young widow named Helen Owen and adopted her young daughter.[80] He worked for his parent’s company, which was now flourishing, while attending St. John’s Law School at night. Despite his busy schedule, by the time Carey finished law school in 1951, he and Helen had four more children.[81] The couple eventually had a total of thirteen children. Carey became active in the local Democratic Party, and he worked as a lawyer for the family business.[82]

Congressman Carey

Disenchanted with his career as a corporate attorney, Carey decided to run for Congress in 1960.[83] The district he lived in was made up of largely Irish, Italian, and Orthodox Jewish families. He attached himself to the popular Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, another Irish Catholic war veteran. Carey defeated the Republican incumbent Francis Dorn. Then he easily won reelection for six more terms. When the unpopularity of the Democratic presidential candidate put his congressional seat in danger in 1972, Carey gained support from the conservative Orthodox Jewish community when it was discovered that he helped to liberate a Nazi concentration camp.[84] In Congress, Carey supported the liberal agenda of President Lyndon B. Johnson. He also helped to ensure federal funding for religious schools, like the Catholic institutions that he attended as a child.[85]

In 1969, the Carey family suffered a series of tragedies. Two of their children died in a car accident, and Helen was diagnosed with breast cancer.[86] Although her cancer entered remission, Helen started to worry about how long she had left. On a trip to Ireland in late 1973, Helen told her husband that she wanted him to leave Washington to spend more time with her. She urged him to run for governor of New York State, so that he would no longer have to travel back and forth between Washington D.C. and Brooklyn. [87] Soon after, Nelson Rockefeller resigned from the governorship, leaving the less popular Malcolm Wilson in charge of the state’s executive branch.[88] This was Carey’s chance. Unfortunately, Helen would never see her husband take office. She died in March of 1974, just a few months into Carey’s run for governor. She left him to care for their twelve remaining children, the youngest of which was only seven.[89]

Carey continued his crusade for the governorship following Helen’s death. In his campaign, Carey publicly took a stand against capital punishment for the first time. Wilson publicized this stance, hoping to make Carey appear weak on crime.[90] It didn’t affect Carey’s popularity; Wilson was still behind in the polls because of his association with former Governor Rockefeller.[91] On November 5, Carey won the election against the incumbent governor.

Governor Carey and the Death Penalty

After moving his large family into the governor’s mansion in Albany in 1975, the death penalty was not the first difficult issue the newly elected governor had on his plate. Fixing New York City’s financial crisis and the instability of the state’s Urban Development Corporation occupied many of Carey’s early days in office.[92] The death penalty issue was not out of the spotlight for long. In October of 1976, New York State Supreme Court Justice Peter McQuillan ruled that the state’s death penalty statute was unconstitutional, following the recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.[93] Several days later, Stanley Fink, the chairman of the Assembly Codes Committee, vowed to replace the law in the 1977 legislative session.[94] The New York Times speculated on whether Carey would sign the bill because of his position on capital punishment during his gubernatorial campaign.[95]

As promised, the Assembly introduced a bill in April of 1977 that would expand capital punishment offenses in the state to include murders committed in the course of rapes, kidnappings, arson, and a slew of other felonies.[96] In a press conference on May 3, Governor Carey said, “I am against capital punishment because I believe it’s the certainty of the punishment, not the degree of the punishment, that will abate crime and, as an attorney, there is always that shred of doubt that the person the State might be killing could be innocent.”[97] On July 12, Carey vetoed the death penalty passed by the legislature. He said, “It [the death penalty] lowers all of us who abide by the law and the Judeo-Christian tradition of preserving and perfecting the dignity of life.”[98] In November 1977, the Court of Appeals struck down the sections of the existing statute in New York State which mandated the death penalty for people convicted of killing police officers and corrections guards, leaving only the provision for murders committed by inmates already serving life sentences.[99]

On January 4, 1978, Carey addressed the death penalty issue in his Annual Message to the New York State Legislature. He said, “I am opposed to violence and the ultimate that violence can bring – the death of another person.”[100] Carey himself submitted legislation in March proposing a life without parole alternative to the death penalty, which did not pass. [101] Then on April 10, 1978, he vetoed a renewed effort by the New York State Legislature to reinstate the death penalty.[102] The Senate vowed to override the veto, then after six hours of debate, a Bronx Democrat, Senator Israel Ruiz, finally cast the deciding vote against the override.[103] In July, while speaking at the Liberal Party Convention, Carey addressed the effect he thought his stance on the death penalty would have on the upcoming gubernatorial election. “I do not expect to win this election with 100 percent of the vote. My stand against capital punishment will exact a political price. But life is more important than a massive plurality. I will not engage in the politics of death.” [104] Despite his stance on the death penalty, Carey managed to win his re-election bid against Republican challenger Peter Duryea in November.

In 1979, another death penalty bill came before Carey. This bill would not only have broadened the list capital offenses to include murders of police officers and those committed during the commission of a felony, but it would also have set up a sentencing proceeding separate from the criminal trial.[105] The governor vetoed the bill on July 13, citing his disapproval of the legislative attempts of the previous two years and calling for nonviolent measures to prevent crime.[106] The State Senate managed to muster the forty votes needed to override the veto, but this time the Assembly could not garner enough support.[107]

In 1980, the State Legislature managed to push through a bill that resembled the 1979 version barely a week after Carey’s State of the State message.[108] His message, which reiterated his opposition to capital punishment, had also pleaded with the legislature to pass a life-without-parole bill.[109] The legislature’s death penalty measure was vetoed once again by Carey on January 18, who stated that it was his fourth time vetoing that bill.[110] He also pointed out that available studies showed that the death penalty had no deterrent effect.[111] The Senate managed to override it with 42 votes, two more than needed, but the Assembly fell short again.[112]

For the fifth time, the Senate and Assembly pass a death penalty measure, which was vetoed by Carey on April 3, 1981.[113] In his now annual veto message, the governor argues that the death penalty has no deterrent effect and presents a real danger of executing innocent people.[114] He made no other mentions of the death penalty at press conferences during this year. New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who is preparing to make a run for governor, urged legislators to override the measure.[115] On April 11, 1981, the governor wed Evangeline Gouletas in a Greek Orthodox ceremony in Manhattan. Unfortunately, this wedding was very unpopular. He met his bride just a few months earlier at an inaugural ball for President Reagan, where she was introduced to him as a widow.[116] This proved not to be the case. It was uncovered that she had a living ex-husband, and she eventually admitted to having been married another time (but she had received an ecclesiastical divorce from that husband).[117] The Catholic Church refused to bless their union because Gouletas was a divorcee. [118] Carey feared the loss their political backing.

Realizing the controversy over his marriage will probably hurt his chances for re-election, on January 15, 1982, Carey announced that he would not run in that year’s gubernatorial race.[119] He said, “‘I have decided to devote all of my strength to finishing the work of these past seven years; to achieve a program that sets a safe for the states future.”’[120] In May 1982, the Assembly considered an amendment to the death penalty bill that would allow juries to choose between imposing the death penalty or life without parole.[121] Despite the changes in the bill, Carey vetoed it on June 10, 1982, saying, “I remain firm in my conviction that it is morally unacceptable for the state to take a life.”[122] Carey continued to speak out against the death penalty throughout the rest of his term, although he would never have the chance to veto another bill.

New York City Mayor Ed Koch and Lieutenant Governor Mario Cuomo emerged as contenders for the Democratic nomination, reprising a battle they had fought in the 1977 New York City Mayoral election.[123] As early as February, Cuomo predicted that the death penalty would become a major issue in his campaign.[124] He shared Carey’s opposition to capital punishment. Cuomo managed to overcome Koch in the September primary, and went on to defeat Republican challenger Lewis Lehrman.

Part V: The Cuomo Administration
Cuomo’s Background

Mario M. Cuomo was born a first-generation Italian American in Queens, New York in 1932.[125] His parents owned a small grocery store while he was growing up.[126] Like Carey, Mario Cuomo served as an altar boy at the local Catholic church.[127] He briefly played minor league baseball, and then attended St. John’s Law School (the same law school as Carey). [128] After law school, he did a clerkship with the New York Court of Appeals, where he was assigned to handle appeals from men sentenced to execution under the state’s death penalty law.[129] He and his wife Matilda had five children, and he supported the family as a lawyer before entering politics.[130] He was defeated for the post of Lt. Governor by Mary Ann Krupsak, and later was appointed Secretary of State of New York.[131] He ran for mayor of New York City in 1977, but was defeated by Ed Koch.[132] He ran for Lt. Governor in 1978, and won, holding that post until the election of 1982.[133]

Governor Cuomo

In his first Annual Message to the Legislature on January 5, 1983, the newly elected Cuomo stated his opposition to the death penalty and argued for life without parole as an alternative.[134] He said, “I believe that it [capital punishment] is wrong and its imposition will diminish us all.”[135] On March 10, he made his first veto as governor when he dismissed the Senate’s death penalty bill arguing that, “There is no reason to believe it deters further loss.”[136] In April, convicted murderer Lemuel Warren Smith was sentenced to death in the killing of a corrections guard.[137] His death sentence fit under the one capital offense category remaining under New York State law – those who commit murder while serving life sentences.

On April 3, 1984, Cuomo vetoed a death penalty bill for the second year in a row, arguing that capital punishment was not a deterrent, and that life imprisonment was a more “terrible” punishment.[138] In September, he addressed the University of Notre Dame Department of Theology in a lecture titled, “Religious Belief and Public Morality: A Catholic Governor’s Perspective”. He said, “The Catholic Church is my spiritual home. My heart is there, and my hope.”[139] He addressed his stance on abortion in relation to his religious beliefs. Cuomo also said that, “…the death penalty is used to escape dealing more fundamentally and more rationally with the problem of violent crime.”[140]

In July, the State Court of Appeals did away with the remaining section of the New York State death penalty by abolishing the requirement of execution for prisoners who committed murder while serving extended sentences.[141] This freed Lemuel Smith from death row.

On January 9, 1985, Cuomo once again voiced his opposition to the death penalty in his annual address to the legislature and his State of the State address. He said, “Each and every member of this Legislature knows that I believe it is wrong for the State to take a life.”[142] He also spoke to a group of New York State district attorneys outlining the rationale in having a life without parole sentence option.[143] The state legislature once again passed a death penalty bill. State Senator Martin Connor, who opposed the bill, said to the New York Times, “My gut instincts are to say sometimes ‘Kill Him!’ But the purpose of our legal system is to take the system out of the level of gut emotions and vengeance and elevate it to civility.”[144] On April 17, 1985, Governor Carey vetoed a death penalty bill and urged the legislature to put forward a life without parole bill.[145] The Senate managed an override of the veto, but the Assembly fell short of the votes needed.[146]

In his Annual Message to the Legislature on January 8, 1986, Cuomo said, “Life without parole is a penalty more feared than the death penalty.”[147] On March 14, 1986, Cuomo vetoed another attempt by the legislature at reinstituting the death penalty. He argued, “The death penalty is an irrevocable act – mistakes cannot be corrected; there is no appeal from the grave.”[148] In his November bid for re-election, he won by a record number of votes against the Republican challenger Andrew O’Rourke.[149]

In March of 1987, the New York State Court of Appeals overturned the assault conviction of Samuel Bice Johnson, in an attempt to help him avoid execution in Mississippi.[150] Apparently, the New York conviction had been a deciding factor in the Mississippi court’s sentencing of Bice to death. On April 3, Cuomo again vetoed a death penalty bill, saying, “There is a better response to killing than killing.”[151] The New York Times devoted just one small paragraph to the legislature’s death penalty struggle that year, stating simply that Cuomo had vetoed the bill.[152]

On May 12, 1988, Cuomo vetoed once again the death penalty bill.[153] He made no public statements in regards to the death penalty that year besides a brief mention in his Annual Message to the Legislature when he said the death penalty would not reduce prison populations.[154]

Suddenly in the 1989 Legislative Session, the death penalty issue gained new life. In January, Assembly Speaker Mel Miller predicted that the Assembly would reach the necessary 100 votes to override the governor’s veto.[155] On March 20, 1989, Cuomo vetoed the death penalty bill.[156] The governor was joined in speaking out against the bill by Albany Catholic Bishop Howard Hubbard at an event at Siena College.[157] Donald Trump took out full-page ads in newspapers urging reinstatement of the death penalty in response to a particularly vicious attack on a woman jogger.[158] On April 19, 1989, twenty-eight year old woman was jogging in Central Park when she was brutally beaten and raped by a gang of at least six teenagers.[159] This attack fractured the woman’s skull and left her in a coma.[160]

The New York Times speculated that the media’s attention to the Central Park jogger attack could represent a turning point in the death penalty fight in the legislature.[161] The battle for the override of the governor’s veto came to a head in May as the Senate and Assembly were both one vote short of overcoming the governor.[162] In the Senate, Senator Donovan’s bout with cancer prevented him from voting, so they held off on their vote until well into June, before deciding to cancel it completely. [163] In June, the governor presented his own bill, which would allow judges to sentence murderers to life imprisonment.[164] Governor Cuomo began to accuse the legislature of failing to respond to “cold-blooded murderers” by not passing his life-imprisonment-without-parole bill.[165] He also publicly released a letter to the president of the New York City Police Benevolent Association, urging him to change his views on the death penalty in favor of life without parole.[166] As the session drew to a close, Senate Majority Leader Ralph Marino unsuccessfully proposed a bill that would adopt both the death penalty and the life imprisonment without parole option.[167] Then in November, two detectives were killed in New York City, renewing calls from legislators to impose the death penalty for police slayings.[168]

On March 16, 1990, Cuomo vetoed the death penalty bill, saying “…capital punishment…legitimizes the ultimate act of vengeance in the name of the state, violates fundamental human rights and demeans those who strive to protect human life and dignity.”[169] Assemblyman Proud, former opponent of the death penalty, switched sides in an attempt to pass the veto override, but it failed anyways.[170] In July, the Republican candidate for governor, Pierre Rinfret, called for a renewed effort in passing death penalty legislation, in light of a poll that showed 80% of New Yorkers supported capital punishment.[171] However, he failed to overcome Cuomo in the November elections.

On June 10, 1991, Cuomo vetoed another death penalty bill, saying “To take a life in the name of the sovereign debases our state and the values inherent in our system of justice.”[172] The Senate overrode the governor’s veto, but the bill’s sponsor in the Assembly, Vincent Graber decided it was a waste of time to bring it to a vote in that house.[173]

On May 18, 1992, Cuomo vetoed his tenth death penalty bill, saying, “At this point, it is clear that neither the legislature nor I will be able to persuade the other of our respective positions.”[174] In June, the State Senate voted on a bill that would allow New Yorkers to vote on a constitutional amendment to let juries choose to impose the death penalty, but the bill failed in the Assembly.[175]

Cuomo again vetoed death penalty legislation in the legislative session of 1993. Then in October, he became locked in a battle with the officials in Oklahoma over the fate of Thomas Grasso, who had committed murders in both states.[176] Grasso wished to stay in Oklahoma, where he was facing execution, but Governor Cuomo unsuccessfully tried to have him brought back to New York.[177] (Grasso was eventually executed in Oklahoma.)

On the evening of December 7, 1993, Colin Ferguson opened fire on a packed Long Island commuter train, killing six people and injuring seventeen. Ferguson, a Jamaican immigrant, carried with him letters in which he justified his rampage as payback for racist treatment he received at the hands of the police and the railroad company.[178] The nine millimeter handgun Ferguson used in the attack had been purchased legally in California nine months before the shootings.[179] The incident captured the attention of both the public and politicians. President Bill Clinton and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani calls from for tougher guns laws, including creating a national handgun license.[180] Cuomo urged the legislature to consider a tough crime bill which included a restriction on the number of bullets gun clips could hold. [181] Republican legislators attempted to include the death penalty in the crime bill, hoping the public outcry against violent crime in the wake of the shooting would help them finally overcome the governor’s veto.[182] They were wrong.

In 1994, Cuomo signed his twelfth and final veto of the death penalty law. But in a strange turn of election year events, he later suggested that the death penalty issue be brought before the voters in the form of a constitutional amendment.[183] Republicans wrote this off as an attempt to overcome critics of his repeated vetoes on death penalty legislation, but Cuomo says that his intention is to ban the death penalty once and for all in a constitutional manner.[184] This was seen as weak by some who thought it compromised his integrity. Assemblywoman Deborah Glick told the New York Times, “ Knowing that the death penalty is wrong and then to say ‘let’s let the voters decide,’ to me is an abdication of the responsibility to make a rational, reasoned stand against it.”[185] Cuomo responded, “The best way to secure my position is to get it into the Constitution.”[186] It is unclear why Cuomo thought New Yorkers would vote to get rid of the death penalty because in a June 6, 1994 survey by the New York Daily News, 74% of respondents said they favored establishing a death penalty in New York State.[187] It is more likely he was responding to political pressure, since 65% of voters in that same poll thought that it was time for a change of governor,[188] and 66% of voters disapproved of his handling of the death penalty.[189]

Cuomo battled Republican candidate George Pataki in the 1994 gubernatorial race, in which the death penalty was a major issue. Democratic candidate for state attorney general Eliot Spitzer told the New York Times, “The first issue on everybody’s mind was the death penalty.”[190] Cuomo had a campaign commercial featuring victims of the Long Island Railroad Massacre, in which one man states, “Frying them all is not the answer.”[191] Pataki justified his support of the death penalty, “We have the bombing in the World Trade Center. I think a terrorist who commits that act…has forfeited his right to live and we as a society have the right to take that person’s life.”[192] In an extremely close race, Pataki won the November election, thus ensuring the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York after two decades of fighting.[193]

Section VI: The Return of the Death Penalty

On March 7, 1995, George Pataki signed a bill into law restoring New York’s death penalty. This bill, which took effect September 1, 1995, made capital crimes of serial killings, contract killings, and intentional killings committed during commission of another violent offense like rape, robbery, or kidnapping.[194] The new statute also included murders of police officers, judges, witnesses, prison guards, and other types of peace officers.[195] The new death penalty mandated the use of lethal injection for execution.[196] It also created an office to train defense attorneys for the poor in death penalty cases, and set up a fund to pay for the legal costs of prosecutors.[197] The bill also included safeguards to prevent racial biases in capital juries, and required the state’s highest court to periodically review data on sentences to avoid discrimination.[198] In August, Governor Pataki chose Clinton Correctional Facility as the site of Death Row, and Greenhaven Correctional Facility as the site of executions.[199]

This successful bill differed from previous bills in not only its length (sixty pages versus ten for many of the earlier bills), but also in some of its content. By examining bills included in the Governor’s Veto Jackets for the years 1978[200], 1982[201], 1987[202], 1991[203], it is possible to compare the content of the bills passed by the legislature at different points during the administrations of Governors Carey and Cuomo. All four of these bills had relatively the same structure. The bills made capital offenses of murders for hire, murders committed in the commission of a felony (including rape, robbery, kidnapping, and other violent crimes), murders of police officers and corrections guards, and the murder of witnesses. The bills also called for a separate sentencing proceeding using the sitting jury to determine whether the death penalty should be imposed. Also, the Court of Appeals was required to produce reports to determine the consistency and fairness with which the death penalty is applied, to avoid discrimination and prejudice in sentencing. The bills all set forth a requirement for providing experienced defense attorneys to indigent defendants for use in the appeals process. Of the four under examination, only one bill differed greatly in any respect. In Senate Bill 7600-A of the Laws of 1982, the Senate included a provision to allow the court to sentence persons convicted of first degree murder in capital cases to life imprisonment without a chance of parole if the jury did not unanimously agree to a death sentence.

The death penalty bill signed into law in 1995 by George Pataki included all of the provisions of the failed bills of 1978, 1982, 1987, and 1991, with the exception of the 1982 bill’s alternative sentencing provision. The bill signed by Pataki contained some notable additions to these provisions, as well. It specified what form the execution must take, lethal injection, and it set up a statewide office for training defense attorneys for capital cases. It is doubtful that the inclusion of either of these measures would have made a difference to Governor Carey and Cuomo’s repeated decisions to veto the death penalty bills that crossed their desks.

No one had been executed under the new law. After repeated challenges to the statute, on June 24, 2004, the New York Court of Appeals finally declared the state’s death penalty statute unconstitutional under the state constitution, on the grounds that the jury instructions in the case of a deadlock coerced jurors to vote for an execution. [204] New York currently has no enforceable capital punishment law, and it is unlikely that anyone will be executed in the state for a long time.

Part VII. Conclusions

It is evident that the personal leanings of the Governor Hugh L. Carey and Governor Mario M. Cuomo had a greater effect on the outcome of the yearly death penalty battles in New York State during the two decades under study than the content of the bills or public opinion. These two governors, both with similar upbringings, both educated in Roman Catholic schools and colleges, and who both worked as attorneys, held a deep belief that the state had no right to take the life of a person. These beliefs likely grew out of the growing opposition of the U.S. Catholic Church to capital punishment. Governor Carey, who witnessed first-hand the atrocities of German death camps, particularly abhorred state-sponsored violence. These two governors failed to waver in their moral opposition to the death penalty, and that was the deciding element in the struggle.

Public opinion seems to have had little effect on the vetoes of death penalty bills in New York State between 1977 and 1994. According to opinion polls conducted by the Gallup Research Group in April of 1976, 66% of Americans favored the death penalty for those who had committed murder.[205] This was just a year before the death penalty struggle began in the New York State. Five year later, the percentage of supporters remained unchanged.[206] The number of Americans who supported the death penalty rose drastically to over 70% for the years between 1985 and 1994.[207] These high levels of support did not appear affect the passage of the death penalty bill in New York during this period, although they could have affected George Pataki’s victory in the gubernatorial race in 1994, since the death penalty was a major issue.

The death penalty bills passed out of the Senate and Assembly during the period under study varied little from year to year (with the exception of the inclusion of alternate sentencing in the 1982 version of the bill) because it was most likely clear to these lawmakers that there could be no compromise with these governors. As Adolf pointed out in his article, “Final Passage”, the issue itself leaves no room for compromise.[208] It took the election of a new governor who supported the death penalty to finally end the nearly twenty year deadlock between the New York State governor and legislature on the issue of the death penalty.

Works Cited

Adolf, James R. “Final Passage: How New York's Struggle Supports a Supermajority Requirement for Enactment of the Death Penalty.” Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems 30, no. 4 (Summer 1997): 503.

Cuomo, Mario Matthew. Diaries of Mario M. Cuomo: The Campaign for Governor. 1st ed. New York: Random House, 1984.

Death Penalty Information Center. Available online at:

Finnegan, Thomas. “Death by electrocution: the death penalty debate in New York has raged for a century now, and it will surely be around for the next century as well.” Empire State Report 16 (May 1990): 11-14.

Galliher, James, and John F Galliher. “A Commonsense Theory of Deterrence and the Ideology of Science: The New York State Death Penalty Debate.” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. (May 1, 2002).

Hall, Kermit L., James W. Ely Jr, Joel B. Grossman, and William M. Wiecek. The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. Later Printing. Oxford University Press, USA, 1992.

Hearn, Daniel Allen. Legal Executions in New York State: A Comprehensive Reference, 1639-1963. McFarland & Company, 1997.

Jeffrey M. Jones. “Support for the Death Penalty 30 Years After the Supreme Court Ruling” Gallup Group. June 30, 2006. Available online at: (I can't get this to indent!)

Kramer, Daniel C. The Days of Wine and Roses Are Over. University Press of America, 1996.

Kudlac, Christopher S. Public Executions: The Death Penalty and the Media. Crime, media, and popular culture. Westport, Conn: Praeger Publishers, 2007.

Liebman, James S. “Slow Dancing with Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment, 1963-2006.” Columbia Law Review 107, no. 2007 (2007): 1-130.

New York (State). Public Papers of MarioM. Cuomo, Fifty-Second Governor of the State of New York. Albany: State of New York, 1983-1991.

New York (State). Public Papers of Hugh L. Carey, Fifty-First Governor of the State of New York. Albany: State of New York, 1975-1982.

The New York Times, selected articles 1925-1995.

Owens, Erik C., John D. Carlson, Eric P. Elshtain, J. Budziszewski, E. J. Dionne, Avery Cardinal Dulles, Stanley Hauerwas, Frank Keating, Gilbert Meilaender, and David Novak. Religion and the Death Penalty: A Call for Reckoning. 1st ed. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004.

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About the author: Emily Hart holds a masters degree in United States public policy history from the University at Albany. She is currently a stay-at-home mother of two, and is in the process of completing a masters degree in information science.

[1] Daniel Allen Hearn, Legal Executions in New York State: A Comprehensive Reference, 1639-1963 (McFarland & Company, 1997).
[2] Ibid., 3.
[3] Ibid., 4-18.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid. (Note: The English executed 182 people between 1664 and 1775. Eighty eight of those executed were black, eight were Native American, and one was Jewish. The remaining ninety four were white.)
[6] Hearn, Legal Executions in New York State.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Christopher S Kudlac, Public Executions: The Death Penalty and the Media, Crime, media, and popular culture (Westport, Conn: Praeger Publishers, 2007), 17.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Hearn, Legal Executions in New York State, 44.
[11] Thomas Finnegan, “Death by electrocution: the death penalty debate in New York has raged for a century now, and it will surely be around for the next century as well,” Empire State Report 16 (May 1990): 13.
[12] Hearn, Legal Executions in New York State, 80.
[13] Matthew B Robinson, Death Nation: The Experts Explain American Capital Punishment (Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2008), 39.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Hearn, Legal Executions in New York State, 81.
[17] Finnegan, “Death by electrocution,” 13.
[19] Finnegan, “Death by electrocution,” 13.
[20] Ibid.
[21] “LAWES HEADS DRIVE ON DEATH PENALTY: National League Is Formed to Work for the Abolition of Capital Punishment. PLAN MASS MEETING HERE Warden of Sing Sing to Lead a Campaign to Extend to All Parts of Country.” 1925. New York Times (1923-Current file), December 21, 1925.
[22] Ibid.
[23] “Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. KILLS REFERENDUM ON DEATH PENALTY :Assembly Judiciary Committee Rejects Proposed State Poll on Electric Chair. SEEK TO SPEED UP APPEALS Baumes Board Would End Delays in Executions--Republican Presses Gasoline Tax. Pardon Bill Defeated. Injunction Measure Killed. Would Tunned Hudson River. Would Safeguard Gasoline. Would Jail Drug Sellers.” New York Times (1923-Current file), January 25, 1928.
[24] Finnegan, “Death by electrocution,” 14.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Ibid.
[27] Rudolph v. Alabama, 375 U.S. 889 (1963).
[28] James S Liebman, “Slow Dancing with Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment, 1963-2006,” Columbia Law Review 107, no. 2007 (2007): 17-18.
[29] United States v. Jackson, 390 U.S. 570 (1968).
[30] Witherspoon v. lllinois, 391 U.S. 510 (1968).
[31] Liebman, “Slow Dancing with Death,” 18.
[32] The Oyez Project, Witherspoon v. Illinois , 391 U.S. 510 (1968)
available at: (
[33] Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238 (1968).
[34] U.S. Supreme Court Center, “Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238 (1968)” Available online:
[35] Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972).
[36] The Oyez Project, Furman v. Georgia , 408 U.S. 238 (1972)
available at: (
[37] Kermit L. Hall et al., The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, Later Printing. (Oxford University Press, USA, 1992), 374-375.
[38] "Florida Becomes First to Reinstate The Death Penalty." New York Times (1923-Current file), December 9, 1972,
[39] JERRY M. FLINT. "STATES ON MOVE:Death Penalty Voided Half of Legislatures Considering Bills on Capital Offenses States Moving on Capital Punishment Several Laws Passed Florida Test Under Way." New York Times (1923-Current file), March 11, 1973,
[40] Finnegan, “Death by electrocution,” 14.
[41] FRANCIS X. CLINES. Special to The New York Times. "Governor Signs Bill to Restore Limited Death Penalty in State." New York Times (1923-Current file), May 18, 1974.
[42] Death Penalty Information Center. “Part I: History of the Death Penalty.” Available online at:
[43] Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976).
[44] Hall et al., The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, 403-405.
[45] Proffitt v. Florida, 428 U.S. 242 (1976).
[46] Jurek v. Texas, 428 U.S. 262 (1976).
[47] Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280 (1976).
[48] Hall et al., The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, 1098.
[49] Roberts v. Louisiana, 428 U.S. 325 (1976).
[50] Robinson, Death Nation, 133-252.
[51] Ibid., 134.
[52] Ibid., 176.
[53] Ibid., 176.
[54] Ibid., 134-135.
[55] Ibid., 160.
[56] Ibid., 146.
[57] Ibid., 147.
[58] Ibid., 228.
[59] Ibid., 178.
[60] Ibid., 207.
[61] Avery Cardinal Dulles S.J. “Catholic Teaching on the Death Penalty: Has it Changed?” in ed. Erik C. Owens et al., Religion and the Death Penalty: A Call for Reckoning, 1st ed. (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004), 23-30.
[62] Ibid, 23-24.
[63] Ibid, 30.
[64]PBS Frontline. “Angel on Death Row: The U.S. Bishops’ Statement” Available online at:
[65] Ibid.
[66] Ibid.
[67] Dulles, “Catholic Teaching on the Death Penalty”, 24.
[68] James Galliher and John F Galliher, “A Commonsense Theory of Deterrence and the Ideology of Science: The New York State Death Penalty Debate,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. (May 1, 2002).
[69] James R Adolf, “Final Passage: How New York's Struggle Supports a Supermajority Requirement for Enactment of the Death Penalty,” Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems 30, no. 4 (Summer 1997): 503.
[70] Galliher and Galliher, “A Commonsense Theory of Deterrence and the Ideology of Science,” 313.
[71] Ibid., 325.
[72] Ibid., 332.
[73] Adolf, “Final Passage,” 525-526.
[74] Ibid., 508.
[75] Ibid., 509.
[76] Daniel C. Kramer, The Days of Wine and Roses Are Over (University Press of America, 1996), 3.
[77] Ibid., 4.
[78] Ibid., 5-6.
[79] Ibid., 6-7.
[80] Ibid., 8.
[81] Ibid., 8.
[82] Ibid., 9.
[83] Ibid., 15.
[84] Ibid., 17.
[85] Ibid., 17-18.
[86] Ibid., 16.
[87] Ibid., 18.
[88] Ibid., 19.
[89] Ibid., 22.
[90] Ibid., 31.
[91] Ibid., 30.
[92] Ibid., 43-64.
[93] Dena Kleiman. “New York’s Law on Death Penalty Is Found Invalid.” New York Times (1923-Current file), October 27, 1976.
[94] Tom Goldstein. “Death Penalty: A Dying Law” New York Times (1923-Current file), October 28, 1976.
[95] Ibid.
[96] Linda Greenhouse. “Bill Would Broaden New York’s Death Penalty Law” New York Times (1923-Current file), April 23, 1977.
[97] New York (State), Public Papers of Hugh L. Carey, Fifty-First Governor of the State of New York, 1977. (Albany: State of New York, 1987), 904.
[98] David Bird. “The Death Penalty Bill is Vetoed by Carey.” New York Times (1923-Current file), July 13, 1977.
[99] Tom Goldstein. "STATE'S HIGH COURT STRIKES KEY SECTIONS FROM DEATH PENALTY :ONLY ONE PROVISION REMAINS Killing of Police and Prison Officers Held No Longer a Capital Offense --2 Men on Death Row Spared Supreme Court Action Cited One Section Untouched Court Voids 2 Key Parts of New York Death Penalty Davis Case Cited." New York Times (1923-Current file), November 16, 1977.
[100]New York (State), Public Papers of Hugh L. Carey, Fifty-First Governor of the State of New York, 1978 Albany: State of New York, 1988), 17.
[101] Steven R. Weisman. “Carey Proposes Life Without Parole For Murderers.” New York Times (1923-Current file), March 14, 1978.
[102] Public Papers of Hugh L. Carey, 1978, 260-262.
[103] Richard J. Meislin. “State Senate Upholds Death-Penalty Veto By a One Vote Margin” New York Times (1923-Current file), May 3, 1978.
[104] Public Papers of Hugh L. Carey, 1978, 946.
[105] Ari L. Goldman. “Assembly Passes Bill to Reinstate Death Sentences.” New York Times (1923-Current file), January 16, 1979.
[106] New York (State), Public Papers of Hugh L. Carey, Fifty-First Governor of the State of New York, 1979 (Albany: State of New York, 1992), 364-365.
[107] Ari L. Goldman. “State Senate Approves Measure to Let Students See Their Aptitude Tests.” New York Times (1923-Current file), June 15, 1979.
[108] Joyce Purnick “Legislators Back Death Penalty.” New York Times (1923-Current file), January 15, 1980.
[109] New York (State), Public Papers of Hugh L. Carey, Fifty-First Governor of the State of New York, 1980 (Albany: State of New York, 1993), 45.
[110]Ibid, 342.
[111]Ibid, 343.
[112] Selwyn Raab. “Senate Overrides Carey Death-Penalty Veto By 2 Votes.” New York Times (1923-Current file), May 6, 1980.
[113] New York (State), Public Papers of Hugh L. Carey, Fifty-First Governor of the State of New York, (1981), 321-324.
[114] Ibid.
[115] Lena Williams. “Carey Again Vetoes a Bill to Restore Death Penalty.” New York Times (1923-Current file), April 4, 1981.
[116] Kramer, The Days of Wine and Roses Are Over, 281.
[117] Paul L. Montgomery. “Governor and Miss Gouletas Are Wed in Orthodox Rites.” New York Times (1923-Current file), April 12, 1981.
[118] Ibid.
[119] E. J. Dionne Jr. “Popularity Slipped.” New York Times (1923-Current file), April 12, 1981.
[120] Ibid.
[121] Lena Williams. “A Bill to Restore the Death Penalty Voted in Albany.” New York Times (1923-Current file), June 2, 1982.
[122] New York (State), Public Papers of Hugh L. Carey, Fifty-First Governor of the State of New York, 1982(Albany: State of New York, 1996), 551-553.
[123] Maurice Carroll. “Cuomo Vows ‘Friendly’ Run Against Koch for Statehouse.” New York Times (1923-Current file),February 23, 1982.
[124] Ibid.
[125] Mario Matthew Cuomo, Diaries of Mario M. Cuomo: The Campaign for Governor, 1st ed. (New York: Random House, 1984), 8.
[126] Ibid.
[127] Cuomo, Diaries of Mario M. Cuomo, 11.
[128] Ibid., 14.
[129] Ibid.
[130] Ibid., 10-11.
[131] Ibid., 23.
[132] Ibid., 24.
[133] Ibid., 25-27.
[134] New York (State), Public Papers of Hugh L. Carey, Fifty-First Governor of the State of New York.
[135] Ibid, 39.
[136] Ibid. 211.
[137] “Convicted Killer Is Found Guilty In Guard Death.” New York Times (1923-Current file), April 22, 1983.
[138] New York (State), Public Papers of Mario M. Cuomo, Fifty-Second Governor of the State of New York, 1984 (Albany: State of New York, 1989), 257.
[139] Ibid.
[140] Ibid, 716.
[141] David Margolick. “Court Overturns Death Sentence in New York State Law.” New York Times (1923-Current file), July 3, 1984.
[142] New York (State), Public Papers of Mario M. Cuomo, Fifty-Second Governor of the State of New York, 1985 (Albany: State of New York, 1989), 48.
[143] Ibid, 545-551.
[144] Maurice Carroll. “Death Penalty and Halt to Runoff Vote Advance.” New York Times (1923-Current file), March 21, 1985.
[145] Public Papers of Mario M. Cuomo 1985, 263.
[146] “Veto of Death Penalty Overridden By Senate.” New York Times (1923-Current file), May 30, 1985.
[147] New York (State), Public Papers of Mario M. Cuomo, Fifty-Second Governor of the State of New York, 1986 (Albany: State of New York, 1990), 110.
[148] Ibid, 316.
[149] Frank Lynn. "With Landslide Over, Real Race May Begin." New York Times (1923-Current file), November 9, 1986.
[150] Mark A. Uhlig. “Shift in ’63 Case May Avert a Death Penalty.” New York Times (1923-Current file), March 25, 1987.
[151] New York (State), Public Papers of Mario M. Cuomo, Fifty-Second Governor of the State of New York, 1987 (Albany: State of New York, 1990), 245.
[152] “Death Penalty Bill Vetoed.” New York Times (1923-Current file), April 7, 1987.
[153] New York (State), Public Papers of Mario M. Cuomo, Fifty-Second Governor of the State of New York, 1988 (Albany: State of New York, 1991), 248-249.
[154] Ibid, 66.
[155] Elizabeth Kolbert. “Death Penalty Likely to Gain, Miller Predicts.” New York Times (1923-Current file), January 27, 1989.
[156] New York (State), Public Papers of Mario M. Cuomo, Fifty-Second Governor of the State of New York, 1989 (Albany: State of New York, 1991), 276-277
[157] Elizabeth Kolbert. “Cuomo Vetoes Death Penalty Seventh Time.” New York Times (1923-Current file), March 21, 1989.
[158] Lisa W. Forderaro. “Angered by Attack: Trump Urges Return of the Death Penalty.” New York Times (1923-Current file), May 1, 1989.
[159] Ronald Sullivan. "Brutality of Rape Detailed as Jogger Trial Opens :'She kept screaming, and then someone hit her with brick.' Brutal Rape Described as Jogger Trial Opens." New York Times (1923-Current file), June 26, 1990.
[160] Ibid.
[161] Elizabeth Kolbert. “Fierce Battle Is Raging in Albany As Vote on Death Penalty Nears.” New York Times (1923-Current file), May 8, 1989.
[162] Ibid.
[163] Elizabeth Kolbert. “Vote to Back Death Penalty Is Cancelled.” New York Times (1923-Current file), June 23, 1989.
[164] Public Papers of Mario M. Cuomo 1989, 766-768.
[165] Ibid, 768-769.
[166] Ibid, 771-773.
[167] Elizabeth Kolbert. “Death-Penalty Choice for Juries Urged.” New York Times (1923-Current file), June 29, 1989.
[168] Sam Howe Verhovek. “Officers’ Slayings to Be Part of Debate on Death Penalty.” New York Times (1923-Current file), November 16, 1989.
[169] New York (State), Public Papers of Mario M. Cuomo, Fifty-Second Governor of the State of New York, 1990 (Albany: State of New York, 1993), 434.
[170] Kevin Sack. “Assemblyman Repeats Support For Death Vote.” New York Times (1923-Current file), April 21, 1990.
[171] Kevin Sack. “Rinfret Renews Call for Death Penalty.” New York Times (1923-Current file), July 31, 1990.
[172] New York (State), Public Papers of Mario M. Cuomo, Fifty-Second Governor of the State of New York, 1991 (Albany: State of New York, 1995), 294-295.
[173] “Cuomo Again Vetoes Bill for Death Penalty.” June 12, 1991.
[174] Governor Mario Cuomo. “Veto Message No. 8” (1992).
[175] Sam Howe Verhovek. “Senate Offers Referendum On Sentences.” New York Times (1923-Current file), June 27, 1992.
[176] Kevin Sack. “Ruling on Inmate’s Return to New York Creates Death-Penalty Quandary for Cuomo.” New York Times (1923-Current file), October 9, 1993.
[177] Kevin Sack. “Death Penalty Feud: 2 Governors, the Law and Their Beliefs.” New York Times (1923-Current file), October 13, 1993.
[178] "Excerpts From Papers And Letter of Suspect." New York Times (1923-Current file), December 9, 1993.
[179] "Mass Murder on the 5:33." New York Times (1923-Current file), December 10, 1993.
[180] Ibid.
[181] “Mr. Cuomo’s Good Start on Guns.” New York Times (1923-Current file), December 21, 1993.
[182] Ian Fisher. "G.O.P. Is Tacking Death Penalty to Gun Bill." New York Times (1923-Current file), January 13, 1994.
[183] James Dao. “Cuomo Proposes Referendum on Death Penalty.” New York Times (1923-Current file), July 8, 1994.
[184] Ibid.
[185] James Dao. “Cuomo’s Shift On Execution.” New York Times (1923-Current file), July 10, 1994.
[186] Ibid.
[187] “Do you favor the death penalty in New York State?” New York Daily News Poll, conducted June 6, 1994. Polling the Nations Database.
[188] “Mario Cuomo has served as governor for 12 years and wants to be re-elected to another four year term. Do you think de deserves to be re-elected or is it time for a change in who is governor?” New York Daily News Poll, conducted June 6, 1994. Polling the Nations Database.
[189]“ Do you approve or disapprove of the job Mario Cuomo has done on each of the following items?” New York Daily News Poll, conducted June 6, 1994. Polling the Nations Database.
[190] Ian Fisher. “Clamor Over Death Penalty Dominates Debate on Crime.” New York Times (1923-Current file), October 9, 1994.
[191] Kevin Sack. “2 Victims of L.I.R.R Shooting Appear in Commercial for Cuomo.” New York Times (1923-Current file), July 20, 1994.
[192]“Clamor Over Death Penalty Dominates Debate on Crime.”
[193] Kevin Sack. “New York Voters End a Democratic Era.” New York Times (1923-Current file), November 9, 1994.
[194] James Dao. “New York Senate Approves Revival of Death Penalty.” New York Times (1923-Current file), March 8, 1995.
[195] Ibid.
[196] Ibid.
[197] Ibid.
[198] Ibid.
[199] Ian Fisher. “Readying for Death Penalty, Pataki Picks Execution Site.” New York Times (1923-Current file), August 31, 1995.
[200] Governor Hugh Carey. “Veto No. 2: Senate Bill 7250-A” Laws of 1978. State of New York.
[201]Governor Hugh Carey. “Veto No. 189: Senate Bill 7600-A” Laws of 1982. State of New York.
[202] Governor Mario Cuomo. “Veto No. 1: Senate Bill 600” Laws of 1987. State of New York.
[203] Governor Mario Cuomo. “Veto No. 1: Senate Bill 200” Laws of 1991. State of New York.
[204]William Glaberson. "4-3 Ruling Effectively Halts Death Penalty in New York: State's Highest Court Focuses on Jury Instructions." New York Times (1923-Current file), June 25, 2004.
[205] Jeffrey M. Jones. “Support for the Death Penalty 30 Years After the Supreme Court Ruling” Gallup Group. June 30, 2006. Available online at:
[206] Ibid.
[207] Ibid.
[208] Adolf, “Final Passage.”