Albert Tomei, Judge Who Doomed New York Executions, Dies at 77

“Only those defendants who exercise the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial put themselves at risk of death,” Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye wrote in 1998 in a decision encompassing the Brooklyn case and another in Rochester.

Less than a month later, the defendant in the case, Michael Shane Hale, 26, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder in the 1995 kidnapping, robbery, beating and suffocation of Stefen Tanner, 62, a businessman with whom he had been living.

Justice Tomei sentenced him to 50 years to life in prison.

Keeping a campaign commitment, George E. Pataki, the newly elected governor of New York, had signed a law in 1995 reinstating capital punishment. The Court of Appeals ruling left intact the rest of the law, although prosecutors and defense lawyers predicted that the decision would leave them with less leeway to negotiate plea bargains.

In 2004, a legal challenge to another death-penalty provision prompted the appeals court to declare the entire statute unconstitutional.

With the governorship held by Democrats since 2007, pro-death-penalty legislators have been stymied. No inmate has been executed in New York since 1963.

Albert Tomei was born on Jan. 30, 1940, in Brooklyn to Romeo Tomei, a truck driver, and the former Rita Calvosa. The actress Marisa Tomei is his niece.

In addition to his wife, his immediate survivors include two sisters, Arlene Bianchi and Barbara Arkin; a brother, Gary; a stepdaughter, Hayley Sumner; and a granddaughter. His daughter, Elisa, from his marriage to the former Ilene Delgado, which ended in divorce, died in 2014.

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from Brooklyn College in 1961 and from Brooklyn Law School, where he also earned a master’s degree. He was elected to the Civil Court in 1977, was assigned to the Supreme Court in 1981 and was elected to that court in 1993.


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