Thursday, December 13, 2007

A day long remembered: NJ abolition bill off to the governor

(photo courtesy of Karl Keys and Abolish the Death Penalty)

Today the New Jersey Assembly passed a bill to abolish the death penalty by a vote of 44-36, following the passage of the same bill in the Senate earlier this week. The bill is off to the desk of Governor Corzine, a public supporter of abolition. Once Corzine signs it, New Jersey will become the first state to abolish capital punishment since 1965 when West Virginia and Iowa shut down the machinery of death.

Blog coverage can be found at Abolish and Blue Jersey.

New Jersey abolished the death penalty because they found it is expensive, risks the possible execution of the innocent, and is bad policy for victims' family members.

The same problems exist with capital punishment all over the country, including in Pennsylvania.

What happened in New Jersey is merely the institutionalization of what's going on all over the country. Death sentences have dropped significantly. Executions have dropped. At the moment, executions appear to be completely stopped until the Supreme Court hears arguments in a Kentucky case arguing the constitutionality of the lethal injection cocktail. Here in PA, we haven't executed anyone since 1999, and since that last execution, four innocent people have walked off of death row.

The Star Ledger today has a feature on Celeste Fitzgerald, the executive director of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
nstead of focusing on the usual moral and religious arguments, Fitzgerald has concentrated on what seemed at first an argument against repeal -- the failure of the state to execute anyone for more than 40 years. Her group has talked about the cost of appeals and the impact on victims' family members who must be constantly reminded of the existence of killers still very much alive on a death row that no longer delivers death.

New Jersey did the responsible thing. They examined the death penalty to properly explore all of the issues, and the state came to the conclusion that it's not worth it.

The least Pennsylvania can do is study it. To do otherwise is to merely stick our collective heads in the sand.

Andy in Harrisburg

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