Families of slain officers push for cop-killer death penalty
By MICHAEL GORMLEY
The Associated Press
ALBANY, N.Y. — On the day of an annual memorial to slain police officers after an uncommonly deadly year for law enforcement, relatives of officers killed in the line of duty pushed again for the death penalty for cop killers, an idea that has little chance in Albany.
Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a former prosecutor, added the names of seven police officers to the State of New York Police Officers Memorial.
Added were: New York Police Department Officer Francis J. Hennessy; New York Police Department Officer Kevin M. Lee; New Hartford Police Department Officer Joseph D. Corr; state Trooper Andrew J. Sperr; Trooper Craig J. Todeschini, Albany city Det. Kenneth P. Wilcox and Trooper Joseph A. Longobardo.
"Our grief did not end after these officers' deaths," Spitzer said. "Our gratitude did not end after the funerals were over or after the flags were raised to full staff. We engrave these names to show that we will always be grateful and that these seven officers will have a permanent place in our hearts.
"Their everyday sacrifice is what makes them heroes," he said.
Back in the Capitol, family members of some of the nearly dozen law enforcement officers who died on duty in the last 18 months urged action on a death penalty for cop killers. The bill passed by the Senate's Republican majority was all but dropped from the 2007 legislative agenda Monday by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat. He said the death penalty struck down by the state's highest court three years ago was expensive, failed to execute anyone, and served no deterrence to murder.
Spitzer supports the concept, but said he doesn't think a measure would pass both houses.
"Joe went to work every day without thinking twice about the dangers," said David Corr, father of the slain officer from New Hartford in Oneida County. "New York must take the necessary steps to punish those guilty of the type of crimes that took my son's life and make those who would have the audacity to kill in cold blood think twice before pulling the trigger."
"Which father, which mother, which sister, which brother is to be killed by some deranged perpetrator? Who?" said Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.
David Kaczynski, executive director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, criticized Bruno for holding the news conference before the memorial ceremony to "cynically push" the death penalty.
"Senator Bruno and his allies are beating the drum for the weakest argument in favor of the death penalty, that it somehow acts as a deterrent to future crimes," said Kaczynski, the man who turned in his brother Ted, the Unabomber, to save him from capital punishment. "This is an argument that no serious scholar, law enforcement professional, lawmaker, criminologist or observer believes."
"I don't care," Bruno said, when told data isn't conclusive on whether capital punishment is a deterrent. He said the death penalty will save innocent lives because killers won't be able to kill again, in or outside prison.