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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Why Abolition of the Death Penalty was Important

I wrote the introduction to today's topic, "Why abolishing the Death Penalty in New Jersey was Important" weeks ago, before the market crash and fear of a depression engulfed our country. It's understandable that everyone is focused on keeping their homes, their jobs and preserving their retirement savings. Not Troy Davis however. Troy Davis is waiting on death row in Georgia to be executed for a crime he likely did not commit. If he is executed and if he is innocent, he won't be the first innocent person put to death in the United States. And until the death penalty is repealed in 36 more states and by the federal government, he likely won't be the last.

Why was abolishing the death penalty in New Jersey so important? After all, no one has been put to death in New Jersey since 1963.

Let me count the ways the death penalty was harmful to New Jersey and our residents:

1. It hurt the families of murder victims.

Sixty-three family members of murder victims stated, in a letter to the New Jersey Legislature:

We are family members and loved ones of murder victims. We desperately miss the parents, children, siblings, and spouses we have lost. We live with the pain and heartbreak of their absence every day and would do anything to have them back. We have been touched by the criminal justice system in ways we never imagined and would never wish on anyone. Our experience compels us to speak out for change.

Though we share different perspectives on the death penalty, every one of us agrees that New Jersey's capital punishment system doesn't work, and that our state is better off without it.

Or more specifically stated by Vicki Schieber whose daughter, Shannon, was murdered in 1998, "The death penalty is a harmful policy that exacerbates the pain for murdered victims' families." [Mark Godsey]

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