“On The Death Penalty, New Jersey Got It Right”
December marks the 10th anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty in New Jersey. After the Appellate Division found the procedures by which capital punishment was being imposed in the state to be unconstitutional in 2004, the Death Penalty Study Commission—as created by the legislature—recommended its abolition. In its place followed life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for anyone convicted of capital murder, which was proven to sufficiently ensure public safety.
Specifically, the Commission found that the death penalty was not only unnecessary, but unjust, and a complete waste of resources. It also failed to serve any legitimate purpose. Yet perhaps most importantly, the Commission found that the interest in executing the small number of people guilty of murder was not enough to justify the potential to put innocents to death.
History in New Jersey
New Jersey is one of 18 states without the death penalty, one of which also includes New York. It was the first state to abolish the death penalty legislatively since 1965, when its state legislature passed a bill to replace it with life without the possibility of parole in 2007.
Still, in 2016, bills were introduced to try and reinstate it for serious crimes committed within the state. If they had passed, they would have only applied to “extreme” crimes; such as deaths caused by terror, the murder of a child during the commission of a sex crime, the murder of a police officer, serial killing, and killings committed by those previously convicted of murder. However, these bills did not pass.
The Benefits of Abolition
In those 10 years since the death penalty was abolished in New Jersey, all evidence indicates that it was the right decision: not only has there been a lack of increase in the murder rate, but most importantly, the possibility of making an irremediable mistake has been completely eliminated.
Additional Changes for Juveniles
In July of this year, Gov. Christie also signed a measure into law that banned life without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders. Previously, any juvenile convicted of killing a police officer or other juveniles during the commission of a sex crime would be automatically sentenced to life. However, in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for homicide offenders under the age of 18 were unconstitutional. Juveniles convicted of murder face a minimum of 30 years to life, however, even with the maximum; they are eligible for parole after serving 30 years of their term. The law ultimately leaves it up to the judge to make the determination regarding appropriate sentencing.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer
Even without the death penalty in New Jersey, being convicted of a crime in New Jersey carries with it significant penalties—not to mention the potential to destroy your record for a lifetime.
If you have been accused of or charged with a crime, contact criminal defense attorney Phillip J. Murphy for assistance today. We have the experience necessary to ensure that your rights are protected, and we serve clients in Bergen County and surrounding areas.