– As National Police Week 2021 continues, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and
U.S. Representative Fred Keller (Pa.-12) have announced that they are
re-introducing Eric's Law, a bill that aims to deliver justice to victims and
their families in federal death penalty cases.
Law is named for Eric Williams, a federal correctional officer who was savagely
murdered by an inmate at U.S. Penitentiary Canaan in Wayne County, Pa. in 2013.
At the time he took Officer Williams' life, the inmate was already serving a
life sentence for murder. Although a federal jury found the prisoner guilty of
this brutal crime, the inmate received essentially no additional punishment
because one juror out of twelve would not vote for a death penalty sentence.
Senator Toomey and Congressman Keller’s legislation would permit prosecutors to
impanel a second jury for sentencing if the first jury fails to reach a
unanimous sentencing decision.
Eric Williams was killed by a violent gang member while on-duty. His murderer's
crime largely went unpunished, even though eleven out of twelve jurors voted
for the death penalty, because he was already serving a life sentence,” said
Senator Toomey. “Our legislation will fix this flaw in our justice system
and help ensure no family has to see violent criminals avoid justice.”
Williams’ tragic killing and the aftermath reveal a glaring injustice for
victims of violent crime,” said Congressman Keller. “Officer Williams
died protecting our community and we owe it to him and others like him to
punish the violent criminals who commit these acts. In federal death penalty
cases where the defendant is found guilty but not given a death sentence,
Eric’s Law would affirm the option for review of the penalty phase, ensuring
victims and their families have every opportunity to pursue the justice they
prosecutors cannot impanel a second jury for sentencing if a jury in a federal
death penalty case fails to reach a unanimous decision on a sentence. Instead,
the judge must impose a sentence other than the death penalty. Eric's Law would
allow, but not require, prosecutors to impanel a second jury in these
instances. The bill is modeled after state laws in California and Arizona.
legislation is supported by:
- Fraternal Order of Police
- AFGE Council of Prison Locals 33, AFL-CIO
- Voices of J.O.E.