Bill named after slain CO introduced in Senate

The bill would permit prosecutors to impanel a second jury if the first jury fails to reach an unanimous sentencing decision


By CorrectionsOne Staff

WASHINGTON — A bill named after a federal corrections officer who was killed by an inmate in Pennsylvania was introduced to the U.S. Senate.

The Bradford Era reports that on Wednesday, the U.S. Senate introduced “Eric’s Law,” named after Officer Eric Williams, which aims to deliver justice to victims and their families in federal death penalty cases. The measure would permit prosecutors to impanel a second jury if the first jury fails to reach an unanimous sentencing decision.

Officer Eric Williams was murdered by an inmate who repeatedly stabbed him with a makeshift knife at the U.S. Penitentiary Canaan in Pennsylvania. (Photo/Federal Bureau of Prisons)
Officer Eric Williams was murdered by an inmate who repeatedly stabbed him with a makeshift knife at the U.S. Penitentiary Canaan in Pennsylvania. (Photo/Federal Bureau of Prisons)

In 2013, Williams was murdered by an inmate who repeatedly stabbed him with a makeshift knife at the U.S. Penitentiary Canaan in Pennsylvania. At the time of the killing, the inmate was already serving a life sentence for murder.

A federal jury found the inmate guilty, but he received no additional punishment because one juror out of 12 wouldn’t vote for the death penalty.

“Officer Eric Williams’s life was senselessly cut short by a violent gang assassin,” Sen. Pat Toomey said. “His murderer essentially received no punishment for his crime, even though eleven out of twelve jurors voted for the death penalty, because he was already serving a life sentence. The lack of any consequence in this case highlights a flaw in our justice system that this legislation will address.”

Under current federal law, when a jury is unable to reach a unanimous decision, the judge must choose punishment besides death, according to the Free Beacon.

"Federal law provides for the penalty of death in the most severe crimes, including those involving the vicious murder of law enforcement officers and prison guards like Eric Williams," Sen. John Cornyn said. "This legislation will help keep our communities safe and give federal prosecutors the option to impanel a second jury to decide the ultimate penalty if the first panel cannot reach a unanimous decision."

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