Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Today Seton Hall University School of Law sponsored a day-long conference, LEGISLATION, LITIGATION, REFLECTION AND REPEAL: The Legislative Abolition of the Death Penalty in NJ, which explored the events and advocacy that led to the repeal of the death penalty in New Jersey and proposed ideas for models that could be adapted by other states across the country. The event was hosted by Seton Hall Law Dean Patrick Hobbs and Hon. James Zazzali, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Governor Jon Corzine, who served as the luncheon speaker commented, “There were many reasons to ban the death penalty in New Jersey. It is difficult, if not impossible, to devise a humane technique of execution that is not cruel and unusual, and to develop a foolproof system that precludes the possibility of executing the innocent. New Jersey spent more than a quarter of a billion dollars to maintain its capital punishment system since 1982, even though it had not carried out a single execution for more than four decades, demonstrating little collective will or appetite to enforce this law.
“But for me, the question was more fundamental. State-endorsed violence begets violence and undermines our commitment to the sanctity of life. We in New Jersey are proud to be the first state to prohibit the death penalty since it was permitted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976, and we are proud to serve as leaders on this profound issue of conscience.”
The conference included panel discussions with leading death penalty-repeal advocates., prosecutors and public defenders, private attorneys and former New Jersey State Supreme Court justices. Distinguished speakers included:
Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, Senate Sponsor of Repeal Bill and author of The Road to Abolition: How New Jersey Abolished the Death Penalty
Hon. Deborah T. Poritz, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of N.J. (Ret.)
Hon. James H. Coleman, Associate Justice, Supreme Court of N.J. (Ret.)
Hon. Alan B. Handler, Associate Justice, Supreme Court of N.J. (Ret.)
Hon. Peter G. Verniero, Associate Justice, Supreme Court of N.J. (Ret.)
Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman
Miles S. Winder, III, Member of N.J. Death Penalty Study Commission
A Legislative Resolution was presented to Celeste Fitzgerald, Director of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty for her tireless advocacy that helped lead to the repeal of capital punishment in the state. [Mark Godsey]