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September 09, 2006

Bucky Phillips and Capital Punishment

The ordeal is over, and the man who had bragged that he would "splatter pig meat all over Chautauqua County" is now in police custody.

After more than five months on the run following his April escape from the Erie County Jail, Phillips, 44, surrendered Friday night after he was surrounded near the New York/Pennsylvania border.

He allegedly made good on his promise:
Phillips had used a can opener to escape from jail in April and on June 10, he allegedly shot state trooper Shawn Brown in the abdomen after Brown stopped him near Elmira in Chemung County.

Phillips is also a suspect in the shooting death of Trooper Joseph Longobardo, 32, and the wounding of Donald Baker Jr., 38, on Aug. 31 in Cassadaga, Chautauqua County, while the troopers were on surveillance near the home of Phillips' former girlfriend. Baker remains in serious condition.

Charges and trials and sentences of course remain to be seen. In any other state, killing a police officer is a capital offense.

But the Death Penalty Statute in New York State was declared unconstitutional in 2004 and that was upheld by the State Legislature the following year.

"The first time I voted for the death penalty, I thought of the law as majestic and that there was very little chance of a mistake," said Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol (D), who represents a working-class swath of Brooklyn and leads the committee that rejected the bill. "Then you grow up. Look at the DNA evidence -- you realize that people can make terrible mistakes."

Better, more conclusive criminal science has freed innocent people from death row.
The inverse of this would seem to be that a criminal conviction is far more likely to be correct today, because of these newer techniques.

I understand other objections to the death penalty, but not this particular line of reasoning.

I have a feeling that the NY Legislature may be revisiting this issue.

Adding on: Not sure I said this well the first time.
New technology can now be used to prove a death row inmate is innocent beyond a shadow of doubt.

The very fact that it works this well means that 'false conviction due to weak evidence' is now ineffective as an argument against capital punishment today (where the technology is used properly).

So technology has made a powerful anti-DP point obsolete (though anti-DP folks will still try to use it).
If this gets in front of the Legislature again, anti-DP legislators will have to use their fallback arguments, which tend to be emotional and less persuasive than the spectre of false execution.

digg this
posted by Laura. at 02:46 PM

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