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PA congressmembers introduce federal death penalty sentencing bill

Pike County Courier

U.S. Representatives Matt Cartwright and Glenn Thompson recently introduced Eric’s Law, a bill that aims to strengthen federal death penalty sentencing.

Eric’s Law is named for Eric Williams, a federal correctional officer who was murdered by an inmate at the U.S. Penitentiary Canaan in Wayne County who 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. The bill will allow 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,” said Cartwright, who represents Pennsylvania’s eighth Congressional District, which includes Pike, Wayne and Lackawanna Counties and portions of Luzerne and Monroe Counties. “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.”

Read more here.