Washington, D.C.  – 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.
 
Eric's 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.
 
“Officer 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.”
 
“Officer 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 deserve.” 
 
Currently, 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.
 
The legislation is supported by:
  • Fraternal Order of Police
  • AFGE Council of Prison Locals 33, AFL-CIO
  • Voices of J.O.E.