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New Jersey Votes to Abolish Death Penalty

The New Jersey senate voted today to be the first state to abolish the death penalty since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.  I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the death penalty, but I don’t really buy the notion that it doesn’t deter crime.  Even if it’s used as a lever to convince criminals to plea in exchange for dropping the death penalty, it has some value.  It seems telling that New Jersey will go easy on criminals, while continuing to push for restrictions on the law abiding citizen’s ability to defend themselves, and keep and bear effective tools for doing so.

24 Responses to “New Jersey Votes to Abolish Death Penalty”

  1. Jim W says:

    I thought the point of the death penalty was to render criminals dead and thus unable of committing further crimes. Whether it deters them or not is secondary IMO.

  2. deadcenter says:

    My problem with the death penalty is, as it is applied today, it is unconstitutional under the equal protection clause. If you have enough money, you get off, example O.J. If you have some, but not enough money, you get life, example the Menendez brothers. If you don’t have enough money, you get the needle, example Scott Peterson and every other sorry sonovabitch that had even less money than that worthless gobbet of spit.

    From the PA perspective, how much has been spent trying to execute Jamal? How much money would have been saved by the state if he’d been sentenced to life?

    That Jersey is aboloshing it? Not surprising.

    dc

  3. joated says:

    The NJ Legislature’s stance makes little difference in NJ. They haven’t used the deat penalty in decades. Oh, they’ve sentenced people to death (rarely) but I can’t remember the last time they actually executed anyone. The NJ State Supreme Court saw to that.

  4. Timmeeee says:

    So, stay out of NJ. It’s a foreign country anyway.

  5. Ian Argent says:

    I am actually quite uncomfortable with the death penalty. If it’s necessary, throw them in jail without possibility of parole.

  6. Jim W says:

    The equal protection argument is BS. The poor aren’t a suspect classification. Different outcomes based on wealth aren’t something that the 14th amendment was meant to guard against.

  7. Ian Argent says:

    I don’t care about the equal protection argument – I happen to believe capital punishment is constitutional.

    I just don’t think it safe to put the power of life and death into the hands of political creatures (the prosecutor and DA).

  8. Jim W says:

    Would you prefer it be in the hands of the jury perhaps? Well, surprise! We’ve already been doing jury based death penalty for the past 30 years.

    Here is how it goes:
    1) the prosecutor decides to pursue the death penalty
    2) a death qualified jury is empaneled (ie, people who _could_ vote for the death penalty if they felt it was appropriate)
    3) the accused is convicted of the requisite crime
    4) the jury then listens to testimony to establish aggravating and extentuating facts
    5) the jury decides to impose the death penalty
    6) the judge decides to impose the death penalty
    7) the prisoner exhausts all his appeals
    8) the governor signs a death warrant
    9) the prisoner is finally executed

    That is a lot of due process.

  9. Ian Argent says:

    The choice to seek the death penalty is a political decision in the hands of the prosecution and the DA. I’m also not convinced that making it a decision of 12 people who have been vetted by 2+ lawyers to be biased in their client’s favor makes it any better. In many ways I’d rather have one person responsible than a committee. Until you can guarantee infallibility at every check mark on the way, I can’t support the death penalty any more. I used to – but then I got cynical.

    Throw them in jail for life without parole. Has the same effect on recidivism, and you can correct any errors that occur.

    And while I am aware that the Innocence Project hasn’t found anyone actually executed who was innocent, we’ve had enough examples of people exonerated while on death row for me to want to err a little on the side of caution.

  10. straightarrow says:

    “I don’t care about the equal protection argument – I happen to believe capital punishment is constitutional.

    I just don’t think it safe to put the power of life and death into the hands of political creatures (the prosecutor and DA)”._ Ian Argent

    I wholeheartedly agree. The death penalty is absolutely constitutional. I am not happy with its administration for the same reasons Ian isn’t, plus one.

    The plus one is killing should never be done in cold blood as part of “just doing my job”. And no, I am not going to write a 50,000
    word essay on it. For people who don’t understand why there is no way to enlighten them, for those who do, there is no need.

  11. Sebastian says:

    The plus one is killing should never be done in cold blood as part of “just doing my job”.

    I think that pretty much sums up why I’m uncomfortable with it.

  12. Ian Argent says:

    I couldn’t articulate that last bit in a manner suitable to writing – but that nailed a big part of my distaste for it. Nobody should wake up in the morning, decide that someone needs to die, and spend taxpayer money in an office someplace to make it so. Like Straightarrow said, if this doesn’t bother you, I doubt I can explain it. OTOH, I may try to do so someday; it’s been on my list of things to blog about for a while now.

    I don’t doubt that some of these people deserve killing – the guy in the one case in front of the supreme court is one of them IMHO (the mexican national complaining that he didn’t get consular representation). And he’s also an example of the rules-lawyering that goes in in relation to administering the death penalty. But just because he’s a shining example of a waste of oxygen doesn’t, in my mind, make it right for the government to maintain an entire mechanism for killing. For every Jose Medellin there is a Corey Maye. And sure, Corey Maye is off death row now – but only because one man took up the crusade to get him off.

  13. Yosemite Sam says:

    “Throw them in jail for life without parole. Has the same effect on recidivism, and you can correct any errors that occur.”

    I wouldn’t have a problem with this, but it doesn’t happen(Life without parole).

    Just recently, in Massachusetts(where else), a man was released from prison who had brutally murdered his mother 20 years ago. A few months later, he murdered a newlywed couple in Washington state. If there ever was a candidate for life without parole, it was this man, but there is always a sob story and a bleeding heart judge and they get released and then they kill again. If this killer had been executed as he richly deserved, then the murdered couple would still be alive.

  14. Ian Argent says:

    That was a sentencing issue; if he wasn’t sentenced to life without parole, do you really think he would have been sentenced to death? Bleeding hearts who won’t sentence to LWP certainly won’t pass a harsher sentence…

  15. straightarrow says:

    Ian Argent, direct me to info on Corey Maye. I was unaware of his change in status, but have sent several missives on his behalf to the governor in the past.

  16. Yosemite Sam says:

    “Bleeding hearts who won’t sentence to LWP certainly won’t pass a harsher sentence…”

    True, but it does get to my point that a sentence of “Life Without Parole” would become diluted until killers are pardoned because of some sob story. The killer I mentioned was let out on parole even though he had attacked prison guards during his incarceration. If the system worked, this scumbag never would have been granted parole.

    Honestly, I agree with most of what you are saying. I am also uncomfortable with the State killing criminals and that act being a part of the political process. I just loathe that killers that commit heinous crimes are released and then prey again on innocent people.

    I guess if our political system was reformed to punish the guilty and to keep violent criminals locked up, I would fully support abolishing the death penalty. Unfortunately, a soft on criminals attitude seems to go hand in hand with the movement to end the death penalty.

  17. No doubt the NJ Commisars decided they didn’t need a death penalty as long as they could send criminals to Pennsylvania.

  18. Ian Argent says:

    I’ve been following Corey Maye’s case via Randy Balko’s blog (The Agitator @ http://www.theagitator.com/ )

    The last I saw there, the appeal on the sentencing phase had been successful (so he was off Death Row) but the original conviction still stands.

    http://www.theagitator.com/category/cory-maye/ should have more (and apparently I’ve been mis-spelling his first name!)

  19. Ian Argent says:

    According to Mr. Balko – Mr. Maye has been formally resentanced to LWP – a necessary step so he can appeal his conviction, and the only other choice of sentence for Capital Murder in the state of Mississippi.

    This unfortunately means he’s out of Death Row cells and into General Population…

  20. straightarrow says:

    Thanks. Hard to stomach a man going to prison for protecting his baby from housebreakers.

  21. straightarrow says:

    I would fully support a law that any law enforcement officer killed in the service of a no-knock warrant is just a cost of doing business with no criminal or civil penalties accruing.

  22. Ian Argent says:

    I won’t go that far – just getting rid of no-knock should be enough.

    For those of you who support the death penalty – are you comfortable with say, Mr. Nifong having the power to direct the apparatus of government to kill someone…

  23. “Throw them in jail for life without parole. Has the same effect on recidivism”

    1. No, it does not. Inmates murder other inmates.

    2. Ignoring the above, this is fine, just so long as YOU foot the bill, and not ME.

  24. Ian Argent says:

    ““Throw them in jail for life without parole. Has the same effect on recidivism”

    1. No, it does not. Inmates murder other inmates.

    2. Ignoring the above, this is fine, just so long as YOU foot the bill, and not ME.”

    Inmate on inmate murder is a problem – just as any other inmate on inmate crime (I loathe that prison rape is considered effectively another part of a sentence, for example). But it happens with inmates who are not on Death Row; Death Row seems to be rather more secure, so the chances of that are rather HIGHER for a non-Death-Row inmate than for a regular inmate. So it’s not any more or a problem with inmates otherwise scheduled to die.

    As for paying for it; someone up-thread mentions the huge number of “safeguards” that purport (with only moderate effectiveness) to prevent “undeserving” people from being executed. Right now it’s cheaper to keep someone in jail for 50 years or more than it is to execute them, especially if the state ALSO has to fund their defense.

    Anyway, the marginal cost of keeping every one of the death row prisoners we have now in prison for life is negligible – most of the costs of a prison are “capital” costs – there aren’t enough prisoners sentenced to death to appreciably add to the cost of operating the prison.

    If you’re really worried about the cost of prison, the place to start is reducing the number of non-violent drug offenders.

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