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The Assembly's Democratic leadership announced Tuesday the chamber would hold two public hearings to consider the future of the death penalty in New York.

The move, ordered by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, effectively puts on hold an attempt by Republican Gov. George E. Pataki and the State Senate's GOP majority to quickly get the death penalty law back in operation.

In June, the state's top court ruled the law was unconstitutional as crafted by Pataki and the Legislature in 1995. With Pataki's backing, the State Senate in August adopted legislation to correct what the court had said were defects in the original law. Silver refused to consider that legislation.

On Tuesday, Silver said public hearings on the death penalty would be held Dec. 15 in Albany and Jan. 25 in New York City.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in New York in 1995, seven men have been sentenced to die. None was executed.

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