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CUOMO PROPOSES LIFE TERM IN DRUG MURDERS

With the death penalty apparently dead for this year, Gov. Cuomo Tuesday offered a new proposal -- life sentences for drug-related homicides.

The proposal, which the governor did not officially submit to the Legislature, was immediately rejected by the leading supporters of the death penalty.

The governor offered several reasons for his "compromise":

Republicans, including their candidate for governor, Pierre A. Rinfret, are calling for the death penalty for drug-related murders.

It appears unlikely that the Legislature will attempt to override Cuomo's latest veto of the death penalty.

Drug-related murders would not be included in the death penalty legislation even if it is passed into law.

The death penalty's leading sponsors -- Sen. Dale Volker, R-Depew, and Assemblyman Vincent Graber, D-West Seneca -- dismissed the governor's offer.

Volker charged Cuomo is simply trying to score political points with his proposal.

He also disputed Cuomo's claim that the death penalty legislation would not necessarily include murder committed during a drug offense.

Graber, meanwhile, rejected Cuomo's argument that life without parole would be a fixed sentence.

It is possible, Graber said, that a life without parole statute could be thrown out by a subsequent meeting of the Legislature.

"When you impose a death penalty and carry it out, no Legislature can bring somebody back to life, can they? That's the difference," Graber said. "Look at the Rockefeller tough laws on drugs. We had to repeal them because they weren't working."

Although the Legislature may have enough votes to override the governor's veto, chances are slim it will attempt one, sources said.

The major reason is that two Republican senators who have voted for the death penalty are absent because of illnesses. The Legislature is attempting to end its session by next Wednesday.

While it is possible that the Legislature may yet try an override, Graber said that is not wise. "To move an override without sufficient votes is not the way you play the game around here," Graber said.

"If the Legislature cannot resolve the override question, I am prepared to send to both houses today a bill that would allow us to make life without parole applicable immediately for drug dealers who commit murders," Cuomo said. "How can they say no?"

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