Thursday, December 13, 2007

New Jersey Abolishes Death Penalty

Looks like NJ Dems were able to push it through using a fiscal responsibility argument.

From the WaPo:

NEW YORK, Dec. 13 -- New Jersey lawmakers on Thursday became the first in the nation to abolish the death penalty since the Supreme Court restored it in 1976. Opponents of capital punishment hope the state's action may prompt a rethinking of the moral and practical implications of the practice in other states.

New Jersey's Democratic-controlled General Assembly voted 44 to 36 on Thursday to repeal the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole. The action followed a similar vote by the state Senate on Monday. Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat and a death penalty opponent, has said he will sign the legislation.

The U.S. Supreme Court has effectively declared a moratorium on executions since it decided to take up in this term the question of whether lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. In recent decisions, the high court has narrowed the use of capital punishment, ruling that it is unconstitutional to execute the mentally retarded or those who committed crimes as juveniles.

Public opinion across the United States still remains solidly in favor of capital punishment, with 62 percent supporting the death penalty for murderers and 32 percent opposed, according to January polling figures from the Pew Research Center in Washington. And in New Jersey, the most recent poll this week, released by Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, showed that New Jersey residents oppose abolishing the death penalty 53 percent to 39 percent.

Where there is a discernable shift underway -- and what has partly driven the repeal in New Jersey -- is when residents are offered an alternative; the death penalty, or life in prison without parole. Given the choice, New Jersey residents backed life without parole over the death penalty, 52 percent to 39 percent.

In the end, the most compelling case for New Jersey lawmakers was the economic one. Keeping inmates on death row costs the state $72,602 per year for each prisoner, according to the commission. Inmates kept in the general population cost $40,121 per year each to house. The corrections department estimates that repeal could save the state as much as $1.3 million per inmate over his lifetime -- and that figure does not include the millions spent by public defenders on inmates' appeals
In theory I support the death penalty. I'm of the opinion that anyone that commits particularly heinous acts of murder, kills multiple people, kills children, or kills police officers should be put to death. In fact after a few drinks I'd probably add serial rapists and child molesters to the list. Having said that I also think its important to look at the history of the death penalty and consider the facts that its application presents us. We've executed innocent people, those that can afford better lawyers normally manage to avoid it, and its costlier than life in prison. Given the choice of supporting an irrevocable penalty that is unfair, imperfect, and financially imprudent or abolishing the penalty altogether I'm for scrapping it.

I said that so you'd understand exactly what I meant when I said the following:

Way to go New Jersey.