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The jury trying the case of Andrew Goldstein, the Queens man accused of pushing Kendra Wendale to her death from a Manhattan subway platform, was given a nearly impossible task. Goldstein has admitted that he killed the woman. There is little doubt that he knew what he was doing and that he knew it was wrong. There is also little doubt that Goldstein is a madman and that this was an irrational act.
A Manhattan jury could not reach a verdict. Ten jurors voted to find him guilty of murder in the second degree and two jurors voted to acquit him by reason of insanity. The discussion about whether one of these jurors was prejudiced by his own run-in with the law earlier in the year is irrelevant. The problem is with the law, not the jury.
A bill proposed by state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) would give jurors an important alternative in cases such as this. The bill would allow for a finding of guilty but mentally ill. This would require the correction system to put a dangerous man like Goldstein in a secure facility where he would get acute psychiatric care. If at some point the doctors determine that the prisoner is no longer in need of such care, he or she would be moved to a normal prison cell until the sentence had been served.
For seven years in a row, the Senate has voted to pass this bill, but it has yet to win approval in the Assembly. There is a maddening inertia at the state capital that kills even the best legislation. This bill is in limbo not because there is not widespread support for such legislation, but, more than likely, because it has become one more pawn in a game of political chess. The wonder is not why such a worthy piece of legislation cannot get passed, but rather how anything ever gets done in this mud hole.
The Padavan law would have made it easy to remove a killer like Goldstein from the streets forever. Had this law been in effect, there would have been no hung jury, no need for a costly retrial. It would also ensure that such people get help in dealing with their demons.
It has been argued that the state would not provide appropriate care for a person found guilty but mentally ill. We see no reason why advocates for the mentally ill could not monitor such cases to ensure that these defendants got appropriate treatment.
©1999 Community Newspaper Group
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