The newspapers and media have been filled with reports of the manhunt for Ralph “Bucky” Phillips. He’s the prison escapee and career criminal now believed to have wounded two state troopers and killed one. He apparently stole 41 guns from a gun shop and 15 cars in his reckless escape and savage hide and seek from the hands of law enforcement officers in western New York and northern Pennsylvania.
In New York, if he’s convicted of murdering Trooper Joseph Longobardo, he will get life in prison, where he can threaten prison guards and try to escape again.
Cases like this are why the New York State Senate has passed legislation I cosponsored that will reinstate the death penalty for criminals who kill police officers. The senate also passed a bill that would amend the state’s death penalty law to fix a provision that was ruled invalid by the state Court of Appeals.
In 2004, the court of appeals overturned death penalty sentences, saying that judges were improperly required to instruct jurors in capital cases that if they deadlocked and failed to reach a verdict during the penalty phase of a trial, the judge would impose a sentence that would leave the defendant eligible for parole after 20 to 25 years.
The bill (S.2727) would require that in addition to capital punishment or life in prison without parole, juries would be given a third option of imposing a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole when sentencing convicted murderers.
Also, the bill requires that, if a jury is deadlocked, a sentence of life without parole would be imposed, and juries would be told of that provision before sentencing. All pending capital cases, as well as crimes committed prior to the effective date of any change in the law, would be affected by the changes included in this bill.
It must be our priority to pass legislation that restores the death penalty here in New York State and makes it applicable to those who kill police officers. We can no longer sit back and watch the lives of New York’s police offiers be jeopardized and be cut short at the hands of hoodlums. There is no greater deterrent than the death penalty to protect our society and our police officers, and it makes sure that a killer won’t kill again.
Police officers all across this state put their lives on the line every day to protect the people of New York. We must toughen our laws to protect police from becoming victims of violent criminals. Following the tragic killings of two New York City police officers last December, the legislature enacted a law to increase penalties for crimes against law enforcement officials and to keep illegal guns off the streets. It’s time to finish the job by reinstating the death penalty for cop killers.
The senate passed a comprehensive bill (S.6771) would put stronger penalties in place for criminals that target police officers. The bill includes stronger penalties for assault, menacing, murder and attempted murder of an officer, as well as increased penalties for possession of armor-piercing ammunition and the reinstatement of the death penalty for criminals who kill police officers.
Criminals who murder police officers strike at more than one life. By murdering one of those sworn to protect all of us they commit the ultimate offense against every citizen and society as a whole.
For the sake of the New York State Troopers murdered this year – Andrew Sperr and Joseph Longobardo – and those shot – I urge the assembly to bring these critically important bills to the floor. Their memories deserve no less.
Senator Seward’s office web site is www.senatorjimseward.com.