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Capital Punishment in New York State: Statistics from Eight Years of Representation (1995 - 2003)
Data covers the period 9/1/95 - 12/31/03

How many capital cases have there been in New York State since 1995?

  • District Attorneys formally investigated seeking the death penalty in 816 cases
  • District Attorneys precluded seeking the death penalty against 733 defendants.
  • District Attorneys dropped charges against eight defendants.
  • District Attorneys are evaluating whether to seek the death penalty in 23 cases.
  • District Attorneys filed notice that they were seeking the death penalty 52 times.

What is the status of the 52 death notice cases?

  • Six cases are pending.
  • After a penalty trial, seven defendants were sentenced to death by lethal execution. All have been appealed to the New York Court of Appeals (NYCA). On July 9, 2002, the NYCA vacated the sentence of Darrell Harris, the first defendant to be sentenced to death. The remaining six cases are pending before the NYCA.
  • After a penalty trial, seven defendants were sentenced to life without parole.
  • Two defendants accepted a plea to a sentence of life without parole after a jury found them guilty of First Degree Murder but before the penalty phase of the trial began.
  • One defendant was convicted of less than First Degree Murder.
  • One defendant, who was convicted of First Degree Murder, was sentenced, by the judge, to 115 years to life after the jury at the penalty phase was unable to reach a unanimous decision regarding sentencing.
  • District Attorneys withdrew the death notices in four cases and went on to prosecute the defendants on First Degree Murder charges. Two of these defendants were found guilty at trial and sentenced to life without parole. One defendant plead to First Degree Murder and was sentenced to life without parole and the remaining defendant was acquitted.
  • 23 defendants pled guilty prior to trial and received sentences ranging from 25 years to life to life without parole.
  • One defendant committed suicide prior to the disposition of his case.

How many capital trials occurred?

  • There have been 18 capital trials since September 1, 1995.
  • 15 of these cases proceeded to both a guilt and penalty phase.
  • Defendants in two of the three remaining cases accepted a plea to life imprisonment without parole after the guilt trial but prior to the penalty phase. The defendant in the third case was convicted of less than First Degree Murder.

Who represented the defendants in 816 cases?

  • 475 defendants were represented by private, capitally-qualified attorneys assigned pursuant to section 35-b of the Judiciary Law.
  • 176 defendants were represented by CDO staff attorneys.
  • 88 defendants were represented by public defender organizations or legal aid societies.
  • 76 defendants were represented by retained counsel.
  • 1 defendant represented himself.