Women and the Death Penalty in the United States, 1900-1998

By Kathleen A. O'Shea | Go to book overview

22
New York: Lethal Injection

The state of New York has sentenced seven women to death since 1900 and all of them were executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing. Ethel Rosenberg was also executed at Sing Sing, although her death sentence was from the federal government rather than the state of New York. Between 1819 and 1963 there were 614 inmates executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing. There are no women currently on death row in New York and in June 1998, Darrel K. Harris, a former prison guard, became the first person to receive a death penalty since capital punishment was reinstated in New York.

In 1995 New York Governor George Pataki signed a bill restoring the death penalty to the state of New York. After 1977 a death penalty bill was passed in every legislative session by both houses of the New York state legislature only to be vetoed first by Governor Hugh Carey and then by Governor Mario Cuomo. Deterrence was the focus of those who supported the bill as captured in the words of Joseph Bruno, the Senate majority leader, who said, "This bill is a direct response to the people of New York who are fed up with senseless, barbaric killings and with soft-on-crime attitudes."

The new death penalty law allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty for murder in the act of another felony, such as rape, serial killing, torture killing, contract killing, killing a witness, killing while on escape from prison, and killing while serving a life sentence. The law applies to those convicted of murdering a police officer, a prison guard or judge, as well as serial killers, and terrorists. Persons under 18 and women who are pregnant (until the child is born) are exempt. The mentally retarded are also exempt unless they kill while incarcerated.

On December 14, 1995, newspapers reported that the Attorney General of the state of New York proposed an addition to the death penalty law. He would like to have the law changed to include the possibility of death for anyone caught

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