WASHINGTON - December 15 – Amid growing national concern over flaws with
capital punishment, the New Jersey Senate Thursday approved a
one-year ban on executions in the state and said it would study
how the death penalty is administered.
If the legislation is approved by the New Jersey General Assembly
in January, New Jersey’s Legislature will become the first since
executions resumed in the 1970s to approve a moratorium. Two other
states – Illinois and Maryland – enacted moratoriums as a result
of executive orders.
The bill, sponsored by Democrat Reed Gisciora and Republican
Christopher ‘Kip’ Bateman, passed on a strong 30 to 6 vote.
NCADP helped its affiliate, New Jerseyans for Alternatives to
the Death Penalty, by mobilizing death penalty opponents in
New Jersey and urging them to contact their state senators.
New Jersey’s action comes at a time when voters increasingly
are questioning whether innocent people are sentenced to death.
Just last month, the Houston Chronicle published an investigative
series strongly suggesting that a person executed in Texas,
Ruben Cantu, may well have been innocent.
“Across the country, people are becoming increasingly aware that
the death penalty risks executing the innocent and discriminates
on the basis of race, geography and whether one can afford a good
lawyer,” said Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director of the
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. “New Jersey
legislators are responding to this growing awareness. No one
wants an innocent person to spend even one day on death row,
much less be executed.”
Rust-Tierney noted that two other states, California and North Carolina,
have approved bills creating commissions that will study the death
penalty. She predicted that within the next two years a number of
states will debate abolition and moratorium bills, other death
penalty reforms and bills to examine capital punishment.