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National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

JANUARY 9, 2006
6:30 PM

CONTACT:  National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
David Elliot, NCADP Communications Director
202-331-4090, ext. 16
cell phone: 202-607-7036

New Jersey Legislature Approves Death Penalty Moratorium
Would be First State in 'Modern Era' to Enact Moratorium Law

WASHINGTON - January 9 - Amid growing national concern over flaws with capital punishment, the New Jersey Assembly Monday approved a one-year ban on executions in the state and said it would study how the death penalty is administered.

If, as expected, the legislation is signed by New Jersey’s outgoing governor by Monday, Jan. 16, New Jersey will become the first state since executions resumed in the 1970s to enact legislation establishing a moratorium. Two other states – Illinois and Maryland – enacted moratoriums as a result of executive orders but not as a result of state legislative action.

The bill passed Monday on a vote of 55 to 21 with two abstentions; previously, it had passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote of 30 to 6. 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. This week, DNA tests could show whether Roger Keith Coleman of Virginia was innocent of the crime for which he was executed in 1992.

“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.


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