A solid majority of Democrats in the New York State Assembly oppose resurrecting the death penalty, including key leaders who voted for the law in 1995, reports the New York Times. After two months of hearingse, the chairman of the Assembly Codes Committee, Joseph R. Lentol, said he now supported life without parole instead of restoring the death penalty, for which he voted in 1995. The Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, said he would not be cowed by Republican pressure into having a vote the death penalty. Gov. George Pataki and Republican leaders in the Senate want to restore the death penalty, which a court virtually suspended last June.
Silver said he had growing doubts about the practical need, expense, and infallibility of the death penalty, especially since defendants can now be sentenced to life without parole. He argued that since 1995 – when Pataki took office on a wave of support for the death penalty that helped to sweep out Mario Cuomo – public sentiment appeared to have shifted against capital punishment.