Report: Death Penalty Tough Proposition in Mafia Cases

"A federal jury's decision Wednesday to spare the life of convicted crime boss Vincent 'Vinny Gorgeous' Basciano underscores the difficulty prosecutors have in convincing jurors to impose the death penalty for crimes involving members of the Mafia," write Thomsan Reuters in an article that explores why juries are hesitant to condemn mafiosi to death.

Basciano, [the article continues] the former acting head of New York's Bonanno crime family, was found guilty last month in Brooklyn federal court of orchestrating the murder of mob associate Randolph Pizzolo. He would have been the first Mafia figure sentenced to death in the U.S. since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1977.

Prosecutors decided early in the case to seek the death penalty for Basciano, who is already serving a life sentence for a 2001 murder. Because he had ordered Pizzolo's hit while in prison for that crime, prosecutors argued there was little a second life sentence could do to keep him from killing again.

On Wednesday, after five days of often grisly testimony during the penalty phase, the jury deliberated barely two hours before sentencing Basciano to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

While U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis has ordered that the jurors' names will remain under seal, their reasoning can be at least partly gleaned from the verdict sheet, on which they noted that none of the other figures who had come through the courtroom during Basciano's trial had received the death penalty for their crimes.

"There are other members of organized crime that have admitted to an equal or greater number of serious crimes that are not facing the death penalty, much less incarcerated," read a handwritten note that was endorsed by 10 of the 12 jurors.

READ REST: Death penalty a tough sell in Mafia cases


  1. The public sits by like a bunch of sheep, without any outrage that, especially during our economic problems, the government would spend upwards of ten million dollars to give the needle to someone who was already sentenced to life without parole. Next time someone bitches and moans about national debt, ask them if they opened their mouth when the U.S. Attorney's Office was throwing their tax money down the toilet.


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