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Congressman Tom Marino

Representing the 10th District of Pennsylvania

Reps. Marino, Barletta Introduce “Eric’s Law” Sentencing Reform Bill

November 30, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Tom Marino (PA-10) and Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) introduced H.R. 4493, Eric’s Law, named in honor of fallen Bureau of Prisons Correctional Officer Eric Williams.

On February 25, 2013, Bureau of Prisons Correctional Officer Eric Williams was viciously murdered by an inmate at United States Penitentiary Canaan in Wayne County, PA. The inmate was jailed at USP Canaan serving an 11-year sentence for his role in gang-related drug trafficking in Arizona. The inmate had also been convicted in Arizona for the murder of a rival gang member and was scheduled to serve a life sentence following his incarceration at Canaan.

In the trial for Eric’s killer, there was no dispute of guilt with the defense stating that he was guilty “beyond all reasonable doubt.” The jury deliberated for 5 hours and returned a split decision, with 11 jurors in favor of the death penalty and 1 juror voting for life in prison. One juror flatly stated during deliberations that they would not vote for the death penalty, stating that she had a son in prison and that she felt bad for the defendant’s mother.  This resulted in an automatic sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole.  Since the defendant was already scheduled to serve life in prison, there essentially was no consequence for the brutal murder of Eric.

Eric’s Law provides a fix for this miscarriage of justice by allowing an attorney for the government to motion the court to impanel a new jury for the penalty phase only.  Allowing a second jury to have another look during the penalty phase will provide the prosecutor an additional tool if the facts show that the jury system did not work as intended.  If the facts of the case truly do show that life in prison is the appropriate sentence, then the second jury is able to impose that sentence. This approach is modeled after several states that already use such a procedure in death penalty cases, such as California, Arizona and Kentucky.

Congressman Marino said the following regarding the introduction of the bill:

“It is an injustice that a man serving a life sentence was able to take Eric’s life and have no consequences for their actions. The American jury system is supposed to work where everyone deliberates and considers the facts of the case. Here a juror simply crossed her arms and said no.  In cases like this where there the jury system doesn’t operate as intended and the facts show that the crime is especially heinous, there should be an opportunity for another jury to try and come to a unanimous decision.”

Congressman Barletta said the following:

“My heart remains heavy for the family and friends of Officer Eric Williams.  Knocked down a flight of stairs, and viciously stabbed more than 200 times with a homemade shank, the brutality of Officer Williams’ murder has weighed heavily on our community for years.  I was disappointed and shocked to learn that the murderer was let off under the same penalty he was already serving when he committed this atrocity.  Despite the gruesome nature of the crime, admittance of guilt, and overwhelming opinion by the jury, one juror felt they should derail justice.  It is an unconscionable miscarriage of justice to the victims of violent crime.  Eric served the community he loved and his life was taken in the line of duty.  Eric’s Law will ensure future families of victims will not see the murderer of their loved ones avoid justice.”