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Public Statements

USA Patriot and Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2005

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


USA PATRIOT AND TERRORISM PREVENTION REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - July 21, 2005)

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AMENDMENT NO. 13 OFFERED BY MR. CARTER

Mr. CARTER. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. CARTER. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of my amendment, the Terrorist Death Penalty Enhancement Act. This measure is a much needed reform for our Federal criminal statutes to ensure that the death penalty is available to deter and punish the most heinous crime in our country. We must remain vigilant and united in sending out one clear message to the terrorists; if you attack our country or threaten our national security and we apprehend you, we will seek the ultimate penalty, the death penalty, against you. This amendment makes needed reforms to ensure that such punishment is carried out and is applied fairly, and is applied swiftly when the facts justify the punishment.

Many of these same provisions were overwhelmingly passed by this House last year as part of the 9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act, but removed during conference with the Senate.

As a former State district judge for over 20 years I have presided over five capital murder cases, three of which resulted in the death penalty. I have a unique perspective on the criminal justice system and I understand the importance of safety and the need for America to be tough on its criminals. We must protect our neighborhoods from the threat of violent crimes which, unfortunately, in today's world, includes the threat of terrorist attacks. Congress must act to protect U.S. citizens from such attacks and to bring justice to those who threaten our freedom.

It is unimaginable to think that a convicted terrorist responsible for American deaths could serve his sentence and be released back on the American streets free to act as he chooses. My straightforward legislation will make any terrorist who kills eligible for the Federal death penalty. This legislation will also deny these same terrorists any Federal benefits they otherwise may be eligible to receive. In my experience as a judge, I have witnessed the death penalty used as an important tool in deterring crime and saving lives. I believe it is also an instrument that can deter acts of terrorism and serves as a tool for prosecutors in negotiating sentences.

First, my amendment adds a new criminal provision to impose the death penalty to any terrorist who, while committing a terrorist offense, engages in conduct that results in the death of an individual.

Second, my amendment provides procedures for the death penalty prosecution of air piracy crimes committed before the 1994 Federal Death Penalty Act.

Third, my amendment treats terrorist offenses similar to treason and espionage cases so that the government need only prove that such offense created a grave risk of death and did not actually result in the death of a person. For example, consider a terrorist attack as we saw today in London, where a terrorist is carrying a deadly weapon, could be a radiological weapon or device, and prior to the total detonation of that bomb killing innocent civilians, he is caught by the authorities and they prevent that attack. Under this bill he could face the ultimate penalty of death.

In addition to these commonsense reforms, my amendment also authorizes the death penalty for killing that results from participation in nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction threats against the United States, missile systems to destroy aircraft, atomic weapons under the Atomic Energy Act.

Now, with the authorization of these new death penalties I have added some commonsense clarification to the Federal death penalty which is supported by the Justice Department. Let me highlight three of these.

First, my amendment adds a new statutory aggravating factor for obstruction of justice and in particular the killing of any person which is aimed at obstructing any investigation or prosecution.

Second, my amendment clarifies that juries must reach a unanimous sentencing verdict one way or the other for life imprisonment or for death. If the jury does not reach a unanimous sentencing verdict then the government may seek a new sentencing hearing.

Third, my amendment authorizes a judge to proceed with a death penalty case with less than 12 jurors if the excusal of the 12th juror is justified by good cause. There is simply no reason to make witnesses testify, juries sit again after a long and complex trial when a juror for some reason becomes sick or for some reason is unable to serve.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. CARTER. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, I am pleased that the President of the United States on two occasions has stated that we need to give our law enforcement authorities all the tools necessary to fight terrorism, and he agreed that he strongly supported the signal of a death penalty to deter this criminal acts, these criminal acts that are imposed upon our society.

When I decided to run for Congress, it was in response to the 9/11 attack after serving for a long time on the judiciary. I am sponsoring this legislation today because in my experience the death penalty does deter crimes, and it is my hope and my prayer that this tool given to our prosecutors and given to our courts and to our engineers will enable us to better protect freedom and protect our citizens from this disaster that lurks in the shadows along with these terrorists that attack our Nation.

I thank the gentleman from Wisconsin (Chairman Sensenbrenner) for allowing me to offer this amendment and for all the great work that he has done on this reenactment of the PATRIOT Act.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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