Tuesday, December 18, 2007

No More Death Penalty in New Jersey

It's official. Yesterday Governor Corzine signed the legislation outlawing the death penalty in my state of New Jersey, which now joins 13 other states (and the District of Columbia) in not having the death penalty on the books.

According to the Star Ledger,

"New Jersey became the first state to repeal its capital punishment law since the U.S. Supreme Court, which had struck down the death penalty in 1972, allowed its reinstatement in 1976." (New Jersey had reinstated it in 1982).

Of course, the death penalty in New Jersey was "de jure" only - no one had actually been executed here since 1963. But outlawing the death penalty shows a dedication to the moral principle that the state should not be in the business of killing people.

I realize not everyone agrees with this decision. Many people who are in favor of the death penalty cite situations where a heinous crime has been committed: Child abuse and murder; rape, abduction, torture, etc. "Surely," they say, "these people MUST deserve the death penalty?"

Yes, I know it feels right to put these people to death. It is natural to want revenge for such terrible crimes. But for those of us who oppose the death penalty, that is not the point. Two wrongs do not make a right. Just because these people murdered does not mean the State should be murdering in revenge.

"What about the victims' families," they then ask. "For their sake, these people should be killed."

Sure, if someone had killed or tortured one of my loved ones, I'd want them killed. Heck, I'd like to see animal abusers killed! But am I right to want them killed? No. It's not my right to have someone killed. Besides, would this act bring back the dead? No.

Others say "Why should we taxpayers pay for keeping these criminals alive in jail for the next 30 or 40 years?"

Although there are many opinions about this, it is clear that with our current system, trying to put someone to death costs a lot more than life in prison without parole. Some will say that is because we "coddle" the murderers too much by allowing "too many" appeals. I say that if there is any doubt about someone's guilt, they deserve all the appeals they can get.

Some people say that the death penalty should exist to keep people from committing such terrible crimes.

But it has been shown time and again that the death penalty is not a deterrent to those who commit capital offenses. Many of these people have subnormal IQs, have had horrible upbringings that have left them mentally warped, or are born sociopaths and would not have changed their actions no matter what punishment were threatened.

Beyond the moral - or religious - sense that some of us have, that we do not have the right to put someone to death ("Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord"), there are two other big reasons not to support the death penalty: inequity and mistakes.

The poor and minorities are much more apt to be given a capital sentence than others. They can't afford good lawyers and they are more apt to be convicted than other more fortunate people.

As a result, there are likely to be many people who are put on death row mistakenly, when they didn't even do the crime. And if the death penalty is carried out, these mistakes are irreversible. Please see The Innocence Project website for more information.

I applaud my state for reversing this inhumane and immoral penalty.


FreakyNick said...

I have always opposed the Death Penalty.

In my view it is only revenge. It "feels" good, temporarily, if you or a loved one has been a victim, but it doesn't fix anything, and it doesn't punish the person, it releases them from being punishment.

In my view, I'd rather be put to death, than to spend a lifetime in prison. Life in prison is a much worse punishment.

After all, isn't the death penalty just after birth abortion? Someone didn't turn out right, so murder them?

I have always been dissappointted when some story, movie or television show ends with the bad guys dying. To me, it feels wrong, and the bad guys got away without being punished for their crimes. I could never understand why people liked it that type of ending.

I'm glad to see finally coming around and seeing the truth. It doesn't punish, it doesn't reduce the crimes for which it has served as a penalty, and the possibility that people could be framed or wrongly convicted is just too great.

I can see no moral justification for it, not even biblical. The Bible has many metaphors about how revenge never solves problems. Like in the story of the great flood, some great power wiped most of mankind off of the earth, because the great power was displeased with them. When mankind returned, they were the same as before. Killing them did not change the ways of mankind, it only served as a act of agression by a greater power.

And now the U.S. is a great power, and of our acts of revenge and agression have only served to increase the acts of violence that the U.S. was trying to quell. Right?

Point being that revenge never solves problems, so you might as well forgive. Sound familiar? A religious teacher and idol whose life we celebrate this time of year tried to teach the same thing. I wish his followers would learn that.

..... and that is why I don't agree with the death penalty.(trying to tie it all together)

yeah, it is a issue with me, can you tell?

Mauigirl said...

Thanks, Nick, for your thoughtful comment. I agree with you completely, to me life imprisonment has got to be worse than just death, and the good thing about it is, at least if someone is wrongfully convicted, their sentence can be reversed.

Regarding the abortion/death penalty comparison, that is one thing that always amazes me about many right-wing Christians: They abhor abortion but SUPPORT the death penalty! And on top of that, they cite biblical reasons for their support of the death penalty! I always say, "What part of 'thou shalt not kill' don't you understand???" And then they come up with weaselly explanations like "Oh, the real word for 'kill' in that sentence means 'murder' in ancient dialect," or some such thing. And they also cite the Bible for their support of the government doing whatever it wants. It amazes me. Jesus said His kingdom was "not of this world" - what part of THAT don't they understand?

I realize there is a growing movement among real Christians against the death penalty, and to be pro-environment (another thing that amazes me is that so many right-wing Christians are anti-environment!), so I know this does not apply to everyone.

Fran said...

A voice of reason from the state of New Jersey!

We have such screwed up ideas in this country as a whole, as was pointed out by Nick and of course in your own words.

I met a woman who was very progressive and a social worker. She was from Delaware but had gone somewhere deep in the Bible belt for her schooling.

During one social work school internship, she was paired with a group called something like Pro-Lifers for the Death Penalty. They had it all worked out that that was ok with Jesus. She did not last long at that internship.

Mauigirl said...

Hi Fran, good to have you back! Yes, one thing I've always noticed is how the Bible can be used to justify almost any position.

S said...

And I applaud your state right along with you.

It's fantastic news. I hope it has a domino effect.

Jolly Roger said...

The first time a murder victim arises because of an execution, sign me up; I'm 100% pro-DP on that day.

Until then, I find no provision in either the Federal or any State Constitution for revenge, and that's all the DP is. State-administered revenge.

Mary Ellen said...

Maybe this will start a trend, eh? There is absolutely no reason for a death penalty. Our country could easily lock these guys up for life without parole. In fact, I think that would be a tougher punishment. Good for New Jersey.

TomCat said...

Great minds, Maui! I hope the rest of the US puts an end to this vicious, barbaric practice.