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Ball Seeks Death Penalty for Cop Killers

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Senator Greg Ball

Sen. Greg Ball called for support for legislation that would reinstate the death penalty for anyone who kills a police officer, peace officer or employee of the Department of Correctional Services.
“The men and women who fight for us every day, who stand behind me, do a job that most of us could not do, and most of us absolutely would not do,” Ball said Friday in a crowded press conference in the lobby of Putnam County’s Emergency Services Building in Carmel. “They leave a family, and that family does not know whether that mom or that dad will ever return.”
The legislation, he said, would ensure “that that family at least has the very comfort to know that the full weight of the New York State law, the legislative body and yes, the death penalty, stand solidly behind that individual.”
Ball’s proposal came two weeks after Capt. John Falcone, an officer in the Poughkeepsie Police Department, was fatally shot in the line of duty. Though the shooter in Falcone’s death killed himself, Ball said the tragedy pointed to a need for capital punishment when a police officer is murdered.
“If it saves one life as an act of deterrence, which there’s no doubt that it will as it has in other states, we will have done our jobs,” said Ball, whose cousin is married to Falcone’s sister.
The legislation would also establish the death penalty for terrorists.
Putnam County Sheriff Don Smith joined Ball Friday and praised the legislation.
“We can debate this issue, but I truly believe it is a deterrent,” Smith said. “I think this is one of the cases where the death penalty is appropriate.”
Since 1963, no one has been executed in New York. The death penalty was re-instated in 1995, but in 2004 the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the law was unconstitutional due to procedural deficiencies. In 2005, the Codes Committee of the New York State Assembly decided against a bill that would have reinstated capital punishment.
“Regardless of where a legislator stands on the death penalty, there’s a large overarching issue,” Ball said. “This is a death penalty specifically for cop killers and terrorists, and everybody from the left to the right to everywhere in between should be able to agree upon that.”
Robert Buckley, a member of the Westchester County Corrections Superior Officers Association and the chair of Ball’s Law Enforcement Advisory Committee, introduced Ball and said he and other law enforcement officials “support the senator and his legislation 100 percent.”
“I can tell you we’re all very proud to be here,” Buckley said.
Approximately 40 people were in attendance, including Putnam District Attorney Adam Levy.
Ball said he expects the legislation to pass in the Senate and urged the assembly and Governor Andrew Cuomo to support the bill. Cuomo, though, has long been a vocal opponent of the death penalty and reiterated this stance last year when he announced his gubernatorial run.
The 1995 law was struck down in 2004 when the Court of Appeals ruled, in the case of the People v. LaValle, that jurors deliberating between imposing the death penalty and life without parole may be persuaded towards supporting the death penalty. If the jury could not reach a unanimous decision, the defendant could face a sentence of just 20 to 25 years in prison, a lighter sentence than either being considered by the jury. This, the court feared, could push a juror who otherwise would support life without parole towards supporting the death sentence in order to avoid a hung jury and a lighter sentence for the defendant.
Assemblywoman Sandy Galef was a supporter of the 1995 law re-instating the death penalty but changed her stance when life without parole became a viable alternative.
“I really feel like, at this time, that we’re covered,” she said. “Life without parole seems like a very good place to put a bad person.”
Galef also disagreed with creating a death penalty law only for police officers.
“As terrible as it is to have somebody in law enforcement lose their life, it’s terrible for anybody to be killed,” she said. “How can you say one life is more important than another life?”
Assemblyman Steve Katz, though, said planned to support the legislation.
“We have to let people know we are really serious about protecting our police,” Katz said.
The legislation, which Ball is co-sponsoring, would change the language of the law so that a jury failing to reach a consensus would result in a sentence of life without parole. Since the Court of Appeals ruling in 2004, eight officers have been killed in the line of duty, Ball said.

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