Politics & Society

Responses to NJ Death Penalty Decision

Following up on an interview we did on Tuesday on New Jersey's abolishment of the death penalty, we kept in touch with Sen. Ray Lesniak, one of the guests we had on to discuss the decision by the state. We wanted to give him an opportunity to continue the conversation, and so we invited him to post on our blog. Here is what he had to say:

Why did it feel so good to see the New Jersey legislature pass and Governor Corzine sign the bill I sponsored replacing the death penalty with life without parole? After all, in 1982 I voted to restore the death penalty. In 2000, I advised Jon Corzine — then candidate for the U.S. Senate — that he should change his opposition on the death penalty because it was an unpopular position. Shortly thereafter, I had a spiritual conversion to a belief that centers on the release of anger, resentment and the need for revenge. Relieved of those emotions, I was able to conclude that governments should not be deciding who should live and who should die, and that justice is served by replacing the death penalty with life without parole. At the bill signing, the governor's office was overflowing with family members of murder victims, clergy of many faiths and opponents of the death penalty. We were all filled with love and compassion, not for the murderers whose lives would be spared, but for a society that didn't need to take a life to do justice.

And to be fair, we gave the State Republicans a chance to respond. Here is a press release from the office of New Jersey Republican Sen. Gerald Cardinale:

Executions save lives. Recent studies by social scientists opposed to capital punishment show a direct correlation between criminal executions and lower murder rates. In fact, researchers at Pepperdine University in California show that for each execution carried out there are 74 fewer murders the following year. have proposed legislation giving the public the vote on a constitutional amendment that would have fixed the process involving New Jersey's murder deterrent. The approved amendment would have placed a limit on the very financially and emotionally expensive appeals process. I put my faith in the people of the State more than I do a lame-duck session of the current Legislature, which just narrowly passed the repeal of the State's death penalty. Other legislation of mine would have created a 'lingering doubt' clause in the death penalty statute, allowing closer scrutiny in cases for those suspected of crimes punishable by the highest form of murder deterrent — a law which would have been more humane than the new law. Why didn't we let the will of the people decide this? Why didn't we make the process leading to a potential death penalty more humane? Why were the facts ignored? Eliminating the best deterrent to murder is nonsense.

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