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Congressmen Cartwright and Thompson Introduce Eric’s Law

Bill aims to bring justice to victims and their families in federal death penalty cases

U.S. Representatives Matt Cartwright (PA-08) and Glenn Thompson (PA-15) today introduced Eric’s Law, a bill that aims to deliver justice to victims and their families in federal death penalty cases.

Eric’s Law is named for Eric Williams, a federal correctional officer who was brutally murdered by an inmate at the U.S. Penitentiary Canaan in Wayne County, Pa. At the time of his murder, the inmate was already serving a life sentence for murder. Following a trial, the inmate was found guilty and received a second life sentence, despite 11 out of 12 jurors voting in favor of the death penalty.

Current law requires a unanimous decision by the jury to impose the death penalty. This bill permits prosecutors to impanel a second jury for sentencing if the first jury in a federal death penalty case fails to reach a unanimous decision on a sentence.

“Our corrections officers face tremendous risk to their safety each and every day,” Rep. Cartwright said. “Sadly, we have lost too many good officers and the loss of Eric Williams still weighs heavy on our hearts. We must do everything in our power to prevent this kind of tragedy from recurring, and that is why I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation. Eric’s Law will ensure justice is served in those horrible incidents where a correctional officer’s life is taken by an inmate.”

“Eric Williams was tragically killed, and his murderer’s sentencing was an injustice,” Rep. Thompson said. “It is a stark reminder of the danger and extreme violence our officers face every day in our nation's federal prisons. Eric’s Law will help provide additional protections for our corrections officers, affirm the option for review of the case and allow for a final, definite decision in death penalty cases that our victims and families deserve.”

“At the trial for the murder of my son, I was in disbelief that under current federal law one lone juror can make a biased decision that becomes irreversible. As a father, it was devastating. As an American who values our judicial system, I was stunned. A ‘trial by jury’ is at the heart of our rights. Eric’s Law allows prosecutors to retry the sentencing phase of the case to allow for the fair and equal court system that all Americans deserve,” said Donald Williams, Father of Eric Williams and Founder of Voices for J.O.E.

“The National Council of Prison Locals commends Congressman Thompson and Congressman Cartwright for their continued efforts to protect the Correctional Officers and Professionals of the Federal Bureau of Prisons by introducing Eric's Law. The harsh reality is that evil does exist in our federal prison system and the threat of the ultimate punishment is the only deterrent. The current statute falls short and unfairly imbalances justice towards evil while repeatedly victimizing the families and survivors of violent crimes.  The men and women that are tasked with humanely managing society's homicidal predators and sociopaths deserve the protections of a unanimous jury that Eric's Law provides.  Above and beyond all other considerations, the victims of incorrigible monsters, the grieving families left behind, deserve equal protections of justice,” said Shane Fausey, National Council of Local Prisons Local 33 President