Newark, NJ - The ACLU-NJ praised lawmakers today as Governor Jon Corzine signed a measure to end capital punishment in the state of New Jersey. The bill, which passed the state legislature last week with bipartisan majorities, replaces the death penalty with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. New Jersey is the first state since 1965 to legislatively repeal the death penalty.
"The death penalty is an archaic, inhumane and ineffective practice that most nations abandoned long ago" says ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs. "It has proven fundamentally unfair and discriminatory, too often resulting in the execution of innocent people."
The bill was introduced in November after the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission concluded that capital punishment does not deter crime. The Commission found that capital punishment is "inconsistent with evolving standards of decency."
In addition to lawmakers, Jacobs acknowledged the tireless work of death penalty opponents, including the remarkable leadership of the New Jersey Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and ACLU members from across New Jersey who lobbied their representatives in support of abolishment.
Gov. Corzine specifically thanked the ACLU for its dedication to this important issue. "I also want to thank advocacy groups, particularly . . . the ACLU and there are many other groups that joined in this process and I am eternally grateful," said Corzine.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment, New Jersey joins 13 states and the District of Columbia that do not use execution as a means of punishment.
"This is historic progress towards the end this cruel and futile punishment," says Jacobs. "We hope it will generate momentum in the campaign to end capital punishment nationwide."
The legislation (S171/A3716) was sponsored in the Senate by Senator Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union), Senator Robert J. Martin (R-Morris/Passaic), Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-Mercer) and Senator Nia H. Gill (D-Essex/Passaic). It was sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo (D-Essex/Union), Assemblyman Christopher Bateman (R-Morris/Somerset), Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson (D-Bergen), Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Camden/Gloucester).