TRENTON – Senator Ray Lesniak, sponsor of S-171/2471, the bill that would eliminate the death penalty in New Jersey and replace it with life in prison without parole, made the following statement today as Governor Jon Corzine signed the bill into law:
“In 1982, I voted to reinstate the death penalty in New Jersey. Today, I’d like to thank some folks who helped correct that mistake.
“First, I want to thank Senator Martin and his Republican colleagues, Senators Allen, Palaia and McCullough, for their support, along with Assemblymen Bateman, Blee and Rumpf. It’s not often we vote our conscience in the Legislature. We should do it more often.
“I can’t imagine how I would react if I had a loved one murdered. Hopefully, my faith would guide me as it has guided the families of murder victims who have supported the repeal of the death penalty.
“The support of the New Jersey Bishops lead by Archbishop Smith and the Catholic Conference was of particular significance to me. Pat Brannigan is aware of my struggles with the faith of my baptism and their support has strengthened my beliefs. Pope John Paul II would be proud.
“Finally, I want to thank Senator Turner for sponsorship of the Death Penalty Study Commission. I introduced legislation to repeal the death penalty three years ago. It wasn’t until the Study Commission came out with its report that the legislation moved through both houses, with the support of Senate President Codey and Speaker Roberts. And I want to thank Governor Corzine for not listening to me when I tried to convince him to change his position against the death penalty when he first ran for the U.S. Senate more than seven years ago.”