Main | Monday, December 17, 2007

New Jersey Kills Death Sentence

New Jersey, which has not executed a prisoner since 1963, officially abolished the death sentence today. The first state to ban capital punishment since the Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976, New Jersey joins 13 others states and the District of Columbia with their ban. Earlier this year a New Jersey study concluded that the cost of defending death penalty appeals made it unworthy of continuing, particularly as a largely empty, if symbolic, gesture.

Among the first to have their death sentences commuted in New Jersey is Jesse Timmendequas, whose 1994 murder and rape of 7 year-old Megan Kanka inspired "Megan's Law" legislation nationwide, which requires authorities to notify neighborhoods when a child predator has moved into the neighborhood.

Texas continues to far outstrip the rest of the nation with their number of executions. Over 400 have been put to death there since 1976, with the rest of the entire country executing about 700. No one was been executed in New York since 1963 and in 2004 the New York Court of Appeals ruled the death penalty unconstitutional.

Like most of you (I presume), I oppose the death penalty for a number of reasons - the way it is unfairly applied to non-whites, the questions regarding cases that pre-date DNA evidence, and so on. But also like most of you, I have emotional, not always entirely rational responses to particularly revolting crimes like that of Timmendequas. There have been a few times here in New York when I have wished a defendant could be tried in Texas. Sometimes I'm a bad progressive.

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