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Though members of the legal community were clamoring for reserved seats in the weeks leading up to Monday’s death penalty arguments at the Court of Appeals, more than a handful of chairs were left vacant throughout the day. Outside the courthouse, one would never have known that the appeal of the first person sentenced to die under New York’s 1995 law reinstating capital punishment was being heard. Additional Albany, N.Y., police officers were assigned to the courthouse vicinity, including a few mounted on horses to corral protesters and manage traffic. But the protesters never came, leaving the horse to idle in the park across from the court, their heads hung low in the shade. Instead, the bright sunshine and blue skies made for a lazy, comfortable Monday, just the opposite of the near mayhem that spilled out of the park during the change of venue ruling in the Amadou Diallo case two years ago. “I’m surprised,” said one court officer standing on the courthouse steps. “I expected people to at least fill the park.” In preparation for the arguments, the Court of Appeals called up five extra court officers from New York City and erected an additional metal detector. From the start, order and calm prevailed — no lines, no would-be spectators worried about being turned away from a packed house. In case of overcrowding, the court set up about 25 extra chairs, bringing the total to 101. Additional viewing rooms were set up at the adjacent Albany County Courthouse and another at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center a few blocks away. But at about 11 a.m. Monday, after Susan H. Salomon of the Capital Defender Office had been arguing on behalf of defendant Darrel K. Harris for an hour, the big screen television at the county courthouse had six viewers, three of them court officers. As the weekend rolled around in Albany, lawyers began to fill up the Crowne Plaza near the courthouse, where the out-of-town judges stay while the court is in session. At least two of the judges — Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick and George Bundy Smith — were checked into the hotel all weekend, an uncommon occurrence that speaks to the 20,000 plus pages of briefs and transcripts associated with Mr. Harris’ appeal. At 11 p.m. on Sunday, the lights were still lit in the judges’ chambers on the second floor. IN ATTENDANCE Monday’s arguments started promptly at 10 a.m., with various notable members of the legal community filing into the courtroom as early as 9 a.m. Among them were John Dunne, a former State Senator from Long Island and the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Alice Green, director of the Center for Law and Justice in Albany and a locally celebrated civil rights activist; Gary S. Fidel from the appellate division of the Queens District Attorney’s Office; Heide E. Mason, the assistant district attorney in Brooklyn who prosecuted Mr. Harris; Evan A. Davis, president of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. David Kaczynski, executive director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty and brother of convicted Unibomber Theodore Kaczynski, was also among the spectators. He said that for his group, a major issue in the Harris appeals is the cost to the state for maintaining the death penalty. “Our hope would be that the court would reach the underlying constitutional issues,” he said, but he added that he thought there was little chance of that happening.

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