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May 11, 2007

Is DP abolition likely in NJ?

As detailed in articles from the Newark Star-Ledger and the New York Times, a "State Senate committee passed a bill on Thursday that would make New Jersey the first state to abolish the death penalty since states began reinstating their capital punishment laws more than three decades ago."  The Times article suggests that the odds of death penalty abolition are still less than 50%, but this vote brings New Jersey closer to de jure abolition than any other state.  (Of course, NJ has had de facto abolition for a quarter-century: no one has been executed in the state in the modern capital era.)

The Star-Ledger article provides coverage of some interesting-sounding testimony from victim's at yesterday's State Senate hearing.  And I found especially intriguing this report on how the abolition bill will deal with defendants current on New Jersey's death row:

As amended yesterday, the bill would mandate life imprisonment without possibility of parole for all murderers found by a jury to have committed a crime with any of a dozen "aggravating" factors that currently could trigger a death sentence. Murdering a law enforcement officer or a child under 14 during a sex crime already carries life without parole, and still would....

The nine men on death row would be given 60 days to make a weighty decision: Give up future sentencing appeals and accept life without parole, or "remain under the sentence of death previously imposed."

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May 11, 2007 at 10:17 AM | Permalink

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