Mario Cuomo Opines on the Death Penalty

In a Letter to the Editor of the New York Times, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo writes:

July 16, 2003
Death Penalty: Worth the Risk?

To the Editor:

Trapped in the System," by Bob Herbert (column, July 14), tells the harrowing story of the innocent Louisiana death row inmate Ryan Matthews and is a chilling reminder of the fallibility of America's criminal justice system, but New Yorkers should not delude themselves that innocent people sit on death row only in the Deep South.

Just last month, the Innocence Project at the Cardozo School of Law, along with a coalition of volunteer attorneys from the tristate area, helped free three Nassau County men wrongfully convicted of the 1984 rape-murder of a Long Island teenage girl, after two rounds of DNA testing proved that a still unidentified man was the real assailant. These three men had spent 18 years in our state's prison system for a crime they did not commit.

If New York had the death penalty in the 1980's, John Kogut, Dennis Halstead and John Restivo would most likely have been executed years before DNA evidence in their case proved their innocence. In light of the ever-growing number of exonerations of the wrongfully convicted, New Yorkers should once again ask themselves if the death penalty is worth the enormous risk it poses of executing the innocent.

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