New York State of Mind

----- Original Message -----
From: Britta Slopianka
To: Florida New ; ips ; Pam
Cc: Kati=B4s Group ; Lamp of hope ; lisbeth ; Patrick ; Wanda's Group
Sent: Saturday, August 14, 2004 9:57 AM
Subject: [patrickcrusade] Now You See It, Now You oops! by David Seth Michaels
 
 

New York State of Mind
I live less than 40 minutes from New York's capitol.  If there were some odd substance in the water there, or if there were air borne spors causing disorientation, or if there were some other explanation for the craziness that is embedded in New York's State Government, I  think I would have heard about it.  So you would think that when the state senate does something really bizarre, like quickly deciding to "repair" the death penalty bill, I would have heard about it.  Sadly, they did and I didn't.

According to the Associated Press as reported in Newsday:

The state Senate voted Wednesday to alter the sentencing provisions of the state's death penalty law to remove procedures declared 
unconstitutional in June by the state's highest court.

The legislation stipulates that when a jury deadlocks over the punishment of a defendant who has been found guilty of a capital crime, 
that offender will get life without parole. It also creates a third option for juries deciding the correct punishment in a capital case, 
life in prison with the possibility of parole.

On June 24, the State Court of Appeals said that sentencing methods of the capital punishment statute were unconstitutional because if a jury deadlocks between execution and life without parole as the punishment, the trial judge sentences the defendant to a parole-eligible term of up to life in prison. The judges said that option might lead some undecided jurors to vote for death by lethal injection because they cannot bear the thought of a defendant someday being paroled.

The ruling effectively cleared the four inmates from death row in New York and put prosecutions seeking executions for murderers on hold.

The measure approved 37-22 by the Republican-controlled Senate Wednesday was worked out with Gov. George Pataki.

But the willingness of the Democrat-dominated state Assembly to take up the bill, or any measure that might resume death penalty prosecutions was unclear.

"This is a highly technical issue with many constitutional implications and we are looking at it," said Eileen Larrabee, a spokeswoman for the Assembly's Democratic majority leader, Sheldon Silver.

Larrabee said that while the Court of Appeals ruling was more than six weeks ago, the Assembly had not seen the Republican proposal to comply with it until Tuesday.

Pataki spokeswoman Lynn Rasic said the measure approved Wednesday by the Senate adopted the approach Assembly Democrats took in negotiations on the issue with the governor and the Senate.

"It is baffling they wouldn't pass this legislation immediately," Rasic said.

When the Legislature reinstated the death penalty in New York in 1995, Assembly Democrats voted against the bill 52-41. It passed with overwhelming support from Assembly Republicans.

Assembly Democrats could effectively keep the death penalty statute on hold by declining to take up the bill approved by the Senate Wednesday.

Democratic state Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson of Westchester County urged her colleagues to do just that Wednesday.

"We should leave the death penalty alone," she said. "It would be foolhardy to fix it. ... We should let the death penalty die."

Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, said DNA testing has shown that other states have frequently put innocent people on their death rows.
"We made a mistake in '95," she said. "Perhaps we didn't have all of the evidence then."

No one has been executed under the 1995 death penalty statute, which fulfilled Pataki's 1994 campaign promise to reinstate capital punishment in New York.

I doubt very much that this bill is constitutional.  First, if a jury is split 10-2 with 12 votes against death, 10 for life with parole and 2 
for life without parole, the accused gets life without parole.  This sounds like it violates due process.

Second, I doubt that the provisions applying this bill to crimes committed before its enactment can pass ex post facto law scrutiny.

So what is it that we have here?  Is this just wanton political grandstanding in advance of the November 2004 elections?  Is this the 
legislature again saying that it will spend millions of taxpayer money on a bill that it knows cannot pass constitutional muster?  Has the 
legislature forgotten that the single item they are "repairing" is not the only Constitutional flaw in the NY death penalty statute?  Are these people so committed to their beliefs that they are unable to perceive anything else?  Has the fact been lost that this is an extremely important piece of legislation that is intended to enable state killing to proceed?  Where is the vigorous discussion, the debate?

I perceive the Senate's actions on this legislation as an example of exactly how I hope I would not make decisions in my own life.  I'm 
reminded of the Udana Sutra, in which after discussing the well known parable of the four blind people who encounter an elephant and then discuss what the elephant was like,  the Buddha said, "...what you see and hear comprises only a small part of reality.  If you take it to be the whole of reality, you will end up having a distorted picture.  A person on the path must keep a humble, open heart, acknowledging that his understanding is incomplete.  We should devote constant effort to study more deeply in order to make progress on the path.  A follower of the way must remain open minded, understanding that attachment to present views as if they were absolute truth will only prevent us from realizing the truth.  Humility and open mindedness are the two conditions necessary for making progress on the path." (translated by Thich Nhat Hanh in Old Path White Clouds).

If you live in NY, please contact your Assembly member--whether Democrat or Republican, whether for or against reinstatement, whether contacted by you before or not--urging the Assembly simply to do nothing and let the death penalty die.  Please encourage those you know to do the same.  If your Assembly member already has responded that s/he is against reinstating the death penalty, be sure and express your thanks and support for that position.  To find the name of your Assembly member, visit http://map01.elections.state.ny.us/boe/main.asp.  To find out how to contact him or her, visit www.vote-smart.org (this is the fastest, 
simplest way to get email and other addresses).

Whether or not you live in NY, I want to urge each of you to consider what you might be able to do to prevent repair of the death penalty in New York.  It's not always obvious what to do in situations like this.  Of course, it's fairly easy for NYers to contact their representatives.  But for those of you outside NY, or outside the US it's just not as clear what to do.  So I ask each of you to pause your busy life for just a moment or two, focus briefly on your breath, and see what thoughts arise as to what you can do to help in this circumstance.  It might be that you say a prayer, or make a donation to an abolition organization, or forward this email, or call friends in NY, or talk to your family and co-workers.  It might be that you offer incense or a prayer or light a candle.  It might be that you write a letter to the editor.  All of your actions, all of your thoughts move us toward the end of state killing.

May all beings refrain from killing and prevent others from killing.  May all beings affirm the preciousness of every life. May all beings 
have happiness and the causes of happiness.  May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.  May all beings be free from hatred and attachment. May all beings have equanimity, so that they have neither too much grasping nor too much aversion, so that they may dwell in the sacred space of each moment.  May all beings have comfort, healing, health, abundant love, prosperity, joy and delight.  May all beings have peace.  May all beings awaken.  May all beings realize their enlightenment.  May all beings have the spiritual bliss that is beyond suffering and is untouched by sorrow.  Om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha. Vamos, vamos, vamos mas alla, vamos a la otra orilla, !Illuminacion! !Gozo! peace, david

David Seth Michaels
PO Box 96
1028 Route 203 at Beale Road
Spencertown, New York 12165
Tel.: (518) 392-9150
Fax: (518) 392-9130
Web: www.davidseth.com
 davidseth@davidseth.com

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I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer~
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