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Year of Reenactment
(since 1972 suspension)
  1995; ruled unconstitutional 2004
Year of First Execution
(since reenactment)

1778-1887: hanging

1888-1964: electrocution

1965-1973: no death penalty

1974-1977: electrocution

1978-1994: no death penalty

1995-present: lethal injection

Current Method
Lethal injection


New York has life without parole.  A jury decides the sentence.  The Governor has the sole authority to commute a death sentence to a term of life without parole.

New York's death penalty was reinstated in 1995.  A study in 1999 showed that the death penalty was far more likely to be pursued in counties outside of New York City than those in the city.  The relatively few death sentences in a state of this size is attributed in part to the excellent system of representation at trial provided by the state's Capital Defender Office.

Even after the events of September 11, 2001, the New York city council (by a 39-12 vote) supported a moratorium on executions until issues of fairness, justice, due process, and costs could be analyzed. One week after the attacks, the New York state legislature convened and enacted a broad anti-terrorism law, which expanded New York's death penalty.

On June 24, 2004, the New York State Supreme Court ruled in People v. LaValle that the death penalty statute was unconstitutional.  The legislature has subsequently refused to take up legislation to correct the flawed statute.  In late 2007, the death sentence of the sole prisoner on New York’s death row was overturned and deemed unconstitutional.  The prisoner now has a sentence of life without parole.


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