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Inside Politics
Inside Politics

One politician's change of opinion prompts changes

By Bill Schneider
CNN Political Unit

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YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
Opinion
New York
Brooklyn (New York)
Capital Punishment

BROOKLYN, New York (CNN) -- A committee vote in the New York state assembly this week -- and the impact.

The committee voted not to reinstate the death penalty in New York, at least for the foreseeable future.

Brooklyn Assemblyman Joe Lentol led the effort, which was a surprise because Lentol had voted to restore New York's death penalty 10 years ago.

Even though his father, Assemblyman Edward Lentol, had sponsored that bill that first abolished New York's death penalty back in 1965.

What changed? Violent crime rates have gone down sharply since 1994, all over the country.

But not one person has been executed in New York since 1995.

In fact, U.S. public support for the death penalty has gone down with the crime rate since 1994.

Lentol's committee held public hearings all over New York State.

"My mind hadn't completely changed until -- and it probably did change -- during the course of the hearings," Lentol said. "Hearing arguments that I heard all my life from my dad being reinforced by considerable number of people who were law professors, police officers, ordinary citizens, doctors -- people who expressed their views on the death penalty."

Lentol was also influenced by another figure he once met who changed his mind about capital punishment.

"John Paul II said, 'No, that's not good enough. In all instances capital punishment is not OK.' He changed his mind, so I changed mine."

Assemblyman Lentol closed the circle this week, with a historic vote switch.

"Maybe my father got it right," Lentol said. "You know, sometimes you grow up, you don't know that. You think you're the smart one and you realize that your parents ain't so dumb after all. And maybe they taught us something we ought to have learned earlier on."

Like the political Play of the Week.

How can a politician switch positions? Well, times change. Realities change.

But the values of faith and family endure. And they mean something -- especially here in Brooklyn.


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