Monday, December 10, 2007

Today's big news out of New Jersey

Today the New Jersey Senate voted 21 to 16 to repeal that state's death penalty. A final vote is expected in the New Jersey General Assembly on Thursday. From there the bill will go to Gov. Jon Corzine's desk.

Some thoughts:

• During the past three decades Americans and their elected officials have learned much about the death penalty and the more they learn, the more they don’t like it. New Jersey legislators are moving toward repeal of the death penalty after concluding that it wastes tax dollars, prolongs the pain of murder victims’ family members, lacks a deterrent effect and is opposed by law enforcement officials and district attorneys.

• Since reinstating the death penalty in 1982, New Jersey has spent $253 million on its death penalty and has yet to execute anyone. New Jersey reinstated the death penalty 25 years ago, in 1982. Since that time, 60 death sentences have been handed down, almost of all of which have been reversed after years and years of bureaucratic appeals.

• The same fundamental flaws that characterize New Jersey’s death penalty system also plague statutes in other states. Many states have suspended executions and others carry out executions once every few years. The death penalty is enforced so arbitrarily it is almost like a lottery – and it is a cruel hoax on murder victims’ family members.

• New Jersey acted after a blue-ribbon study commission heard from more than 70 witnesses and studied every aspect of the death penalty system. Despite the fact that a number of capital punishment proponents were appointed to the commission, it eventually voted 12 to 1 to recommend that the death penalty be repealed. Other states, including California, Illinois, North Carolina and Tennessee, also have embarked upon death penalty studies.

• Every death penalty state suffers from the exact same problems New Jersey legislators are now addressing. Costs, lack of deterrence, fears of executing the innocent, affect on murder victims family members and other problems also exist in every death penalty state. Eventually, every death penalty state inevitably is going to do what New Jersey did – study the system and conclude whether or not capital punishment is worth the myriad costs to communities, taxpayers and crime victims alike.

• Today’s vote represents a holiday gift to every New Jersey resident affected by crime and every taxpayer who demands that real problems such as violent crime require real solutions. Because of today’s action, New Jersey will be able to shift valuable resources to programs that enhance public safety and support family members of murder victims.

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