Sunday, 16 December 2007

New Jersey Abolishes The Death Penalty

On Thursday 13th December, the New Jersey Legislature followed up Monday's approval by the State Senate, and in a vote of 44-36 made NJ the first state to abolish the death penalty. The US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, but New Jersey has not executed anyone since 1963. New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has said he will sign the bill into law when it arrives on his desk.

The Guardian

A New Jersey state commission found in January that the death penalty was expensive to administer, had no deterrent effect and carried the risk of killing an innocent person. It was, said the commission, "inconsistent with evolving standards of decency".

"We would be better served as a society by having a clear and certain outcome for individuals that carry out heinous crimes," Corzine said."

I think that, "clear and certain outcome," is a very important factor in abolishing the death penalty. Prisoners will not be sitting on death row, year-after-year, waiting to be taken on their last walk, or to hear last minute news about their latest appeal. The families of victims will achieve some level of closure and not be waiting for the next round of publicity given to the person found guilty of murder. And just as important, no innocent person will be put beyond the oportunity to experience the proof of innocence or to walk free.

The abolition of the death penalty in New Jersey would seem to just write into law what the state has been doing in practice since 1963, but it is a very important piece of legislation. The state legislature has voted for what the Governor calls, "...evolving standards of decency," and I congratulate those who have worked doggedly to get this legislation onto their statute books.

Now what about Texas? Time for that state to look carefully at its standards of decency?