New York Gears Up Killing Machine

By: Tristin Adie

The first death penalty case in New York state in 15 years is about to go to trial.

Darrell Harris, a 40-year-old Black man and former prison guard, faces allegations that he killed three people in a Brooklyn nightclub in 1996.

Despite his public professions that he is personally opposed to capital punishment, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes is seeking the death penalty against Harris. In 1990, Hynes stated that "by instituting the death penalty, rather than choosing a non-violent alternative such as life imprisonment without parole, we place ourselves on the same moral level as the murderers we seek to punish." Yet Hynes has announced his intentions to seek the death penalty against four other people - more than any other DA in the state!

His change of heart has everything to do with the fact that he is running for governor of New York State in the next election. Like so many other politicians throughout the country, Hynes believes he can use tragedies like the murders that Harris has been accused of in order to look "tough on crime."

But preliminary proceedings have shown that this is not a foolproof strategy. So far, jury selection has taken twice as long as the judge and prosecutors anticipated. Potential jurors were disqualified for opposing the death penalty by a margin of two to one, according to one of Harris' lawyers.

Seventeen other defendants in New York state are currently awaiting trial in capital cases. A death sentence for Harris will make it much easier for various politicians to speed up the entire execution process. The last time anyone was actually executed in New York state was in 1969. It is crucial that we step up our efforts to prevent the state from killing again.

The Campaign to End the Death Penalty has been organizing to defend Darrell, with petitioning, a press conference and demonstrations.

We are planning a picket in front of Hynes' house as our next activity. To get involved in upcoming actions, please call 212-330-7056.