UNION – On December 17, 2007, New Jersey became the first state in the Union to repeal the death penalty since the Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976. Senator Raymond Lesniak, prime-sponsor of the legislation that repealed New Jersey’s statute, issued the following statement for the one-year anniversary of Governor Jon Corzine signing his bill into law:
“One year ago, New Jersey eliminated capital punishment and the Coliseum in Rome was lit to celebrate its abolition. New Jersey’s efforts now serve as a guiding light for other states. Measures to repeal the death penalty are gaining traction all across the nation.
“Just this week, a Maryland commission issued a report to Governor Martin O’Malley recommending that the state’s death penalty statute be revoked. The commission found, by a vote of 13 to 7, that the death penalty is discriminatory in its application and costly in its administration.
“Hope also exists in New Mexico, where an abolition bill appears poised to move in early 2009. Last year a similar bill was narrowly defeated in New Mexico’s State Senate after passing in the House.
“Most of the executions carried out in our country take place in Texas, Virginia, and Oklahoma. Death penalty sentences and executions are down in all three of those states. With 37 people having been put to death this year, 2008 is expected to end with the lowest execution rate since 1994.
“Since 2000, death sentencing rates have been declining in every region of the country and this year maintained that trend. The number of new death sentences in Texas was at a 30-year low. While these trends are positive, efforts to abolish the death penalty worldwide must continue.
“Across our country, over 3,000 human beings are awaiting execution, some for a crime they did not commit. The death penalty in the United States, Iraq, Pakistan, Japan, or wherever, exposes the innocent to execution, hurts the family members of murder victims, serves no penal purpose and commits society to the dangerous belief that revenge is preferable to redemption.
“Redemption is not just for those awaiting execution. It opens the door for society to ask healing questions in the wake of violence, questions of crime prevention, questions of why some human beings put such a low value on life that they readily take it from others, questions that help us understand how to help those impacted by violence, questions that take a back seat and are often ignored when our minds and emotions are filled with a need for revenge, questions we need to answer if we are to stop all types of brutality we are experiencing in our country and across the planet.”
To support Senator Lesniak’s efforts to abolish the death penalty, please visit his website, www.theroadtoabolition.com.