New Jersey approaches abolition
This spring, New Jersey’s movement to abolish the death penalty took a big step forward when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8-2 to replace the death penalty with life without parole. Over a hundred citizens were packed into the hearing room, including exonerees, activists from New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (NJADP), and murder victims’ family members.
At one point during the testimony, a witness whose daughter had been murdered asked other victims’ family members in the audience to stand in support of repeal. In a moving show of solidarity, over two-dozen people walked to the witness stand and stood in silence. The energy in the room was palpable.
The hearing’s most affecting testimony came from high level law enforcement officers who called for abolition. West Orange Police Chief James Abbott and Hudson County Prosecutor Ed DeFazio, representing the statewide County Prosecutors’ Association, had both sat on the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission. Both had supported the death penalty from the outset, only to reconsider their positions and ultimately vote against it. [Chief Abbott’s testimony is excerpted elsewhere on our webiste.] The legislators on the Committee were visibly moved by these law enforcement officers’ pronouncements that the death penalty was a failure, and several cited this testimony as the critical factor in their votes for abolition.
The bill now moves to another Senate committee and the state Assembly. EJUSA is hopeful that it will pass this winter. We congratulate our state partners NJADP for their incredible campaign thus far – and look forward to seeing New Jersey become the first state to pro-actively abolish the death penalty in our modern history.