On Tuesday, January 2, 2007, the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission called on the Governor and the New Jersey Legislature to repeal the death penalty in New Jersey and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole. The ACLU considers the death penalty the ultimate abuse of governmental authority and under all circumstances a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishments.
Among the Commission’s findings are that the death penalty serves no legitimate penological interest, that it is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency, and that life in prison without the possibility of parole would sufficiently ensure public safety and address other legitimate social and penological interests, including the interests of families of murder victims. The commission was created by the New Jersey legislature after it imposed a moratorium on executions a year ago. You can read the full report in PDF form here.
The ACLU is urging the Governor and the New Jersey legislature to follow the Commission’s recommendation. And we think that the flaws New Jersey named in how the death penalty is administered hold true in every American jurisdiction that employs the death penalty. These flaws and others like them make the capital punishment systems in some other jurisdictions even more violative of constitutional norms than New Jersey’s system does.
We strongly believe that those states, and the federal government, should likewise impose moratoria on their death penalty systems, and should ultimately conclude, as New Jersey did, that the death penalty be abolished and replaced with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.