Based on our findings, the Commission recommends that the death penalty in New Jersey be abolished and replaced with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, to be served in a maximum security facility. The Commission also recommends that any cost savings resulting from the abolition of the death penalty be used for benefits and services for survivors of victims of homicide.
The New Jersey Attorney General in that Report notes:
We would not be honest with victims or the general public if we ignored the practical realities of our capital sentencing scheme: the current capital punishment system in New Jersey diverts limited resources, does little to advance the interests of public safety, and subjects the families of homicide victims to protracted emotional grief and frustration. As a result, while we will continue to implement any constitutional sentencing system that the Legislature may adopt, we would offer no objection were the Legislature to replace the current capital punishment scheme with a law that substitutes a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for a capital sentence.
Celeste Fitzgerald, executive director of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, noted:
“Im pleased the commission has concluded what the evidence has shown for two decades: the death penalty is an outdated, risky, resource-straining hoax on victims families,” Fitzgerald said. “”The time has come to finally end the death penalty and replace it with life without parole.”
More later tonight as the Report is digested, although I should note that the Public Defender, Yvonne Smith Segars has several strong words of caution on the LWOP / Death Penalty trade-off offered by the Commission.
The NJ Death Penalty Study Commissions Report recommended repealing the death penalty finding:
(3) There is increasing evidence that the death penalty is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency.
(4) The available data do not support a finding of invidious racial bias in the application of the death penalty in New Jersey.
(5) Abolition of the death penalty will eliminate the risk of disproportionality in capital sentencing.
(6) The penological interest in executing a small number of persons guilty of murder is not sufficiently compelling to justify the risk of making an irreversible mistake.
(7) The alternative of life imprisonment in a maximum security institution without the possibility of parole would sufficiently ensure public safety and address other legitimate social and penological interests, including the interests of the families of murder victims.
(8) Sufficient funds should be dedicated to ensure adequate services and advocacy for the families of murder victims.