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Author Topic: New Jersey bans Death Penalty
WeAreAllJust LooseChange
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Could this REALLY be happening in America???
I must be dreaming...

Link to CNN article

TRENTON, New Jersey (CNN) -- New Jersey on Monday became the first state in more than three decades to abolish the death penalty after a state commission ruled the punishment is "inconsistent with evolving standards of decency."

In signing the bill, Gov. Jon Corzine called it a "momentous day" and made the Garden State the first state to ban capital punishment since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976.

Corzine on Sunday commuted the sentences of eight men sitting on the state's death row. They will now serve life in prison without parole, according to the governor's office.

"It's a day of progress for the state of New Jersey and for the millions of people across our nation and around the globe who reject the death penalty as a moral or practical response to the grievous, even heinous, crime of murder," Corzine said.

Society is not forgiving criminals, the Democratic governor insisted, but the law is necessary because "government cannot provide a fool-proof death penalty that precludes the possibility of executing the innocent."

"Society must ask," he continued, "is it not morally superior to imprison 100 people for life than it is to execute all 100 when it's probable we execute an innocent?"

The state Assembly approved the measure Thursday by a 44-36 vote after the Senate OK'd it 21-16.
New Jersey has not executed a prisoner since 1963.

The new legislation replaces the death penalty with life in prison without parole. The bill was introduced in November after a state commission concluded capital punishment was an ineffective deterrent to crime.

Since the Supreme Court's reinstatement of the death penalty, almost 1,100 people have been executed in 37 states.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment, New Jersey joins 13 states and the District of Columbia that do not use execution as a means of punishment.
---

What's your take on this? Can this decision be challenged in the Supreme court or the US Constitution leaves this up to the states to decide?

The Change

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scifibum
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I don't see how the federal government could overturn this (with some kind of mandatory death penalty?) for cases that are prosecuted and adjudicated by the states. I'm glad to see this, actually. As abhorrent as life imprisonment is, I think that individuals given the choice prefer it over execution, and I can't stomach the idea of executing people who were falsely convicted, since at least if they are still alive there's some minute chance that the error will be caught and the imprisonment ended.

Also, we can free up some resources to imprison people for life instead of executing them if we can adopt a more practical and realistic approach to the war on drugs and let some potheads out of jail.

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TomDavidson
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Wow. It's rare to see someone upset about having the state's "right" to kill someone called into question.
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WeAreAllJust LooseChange
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Tom - not sure what exactly you mean by your statement.
I'm happy with the N.J. defcision and was just curious if somebody who is NOT happy with it can challenge it in the US Supreme court?

I'm not sure what "since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated it (the Death Penalty) in 1976." as in the article meant - did they make it mandatory or they left to the states to decide?

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TaoJeannes
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More power to them.

I'm fairly agnostic on the death penalty, but I like it any time a state asserts its sovereignty.

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The Drake
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I think the costs cannot dominate this discussion. It is unclear, for example, how many criminals plead guilty to avoid the death penalty.

I wholeheartedly agree that this is an excellent example of Federalism at work. Don't like the death penalty? Move to a state that banned it. Love the death penalty? Move to a state that uses it.

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IrishTD
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For reference (since it's recent)...

NYTimes Linky

Opening of article...
quote:
For the first time in a generation, the question of whether the death penalty deters murders has captured the attention of scholars in law and economics, setting off an intense new debate about one of the central justifications for capital punishment.

According to roughly a dozen recent studies, executions save lives. For each inmate put to death, the studies say, 3 to 18 murders are prevented.


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msquared
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WAALC,

In the 70's people brought suit saying the the death penalty was cruel and unusual punishment. So while the SC decided the matter all death penalties were put on hold and people, IIRC, could not be sentenced to death.

The SC then decided that in certain situations the states could have a death penalty, but it had to follow certain guide lines.

Like you, I do not see any way for this action by NJ to be reviewed by the SC. This act has no place before the SC. If the people of NJ want to remove this form of punishment from their list, they should be able to do so.

msquared

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scifibum
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BTW, WAAJLC, I don't know if you missed it, but the part of the article you quoted states that there are already 13 other states that do not use the death penalty, and have not for years - so this is not a novelty, except that it's a recent change in policy instead of a longstanding one.
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WeAreAllJust LooseChange
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scifibum - yeah - I missed that part on my first read of the article...

The fact that one more state officially switched sides in the "debate" pro and against Death Penalty is encouraging.

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Jesse
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quote:
The two professors offered one particularly compelling comparison. Canada has executed no one since 1962. Yet the murder rates in the United States and Canada have moved in close parallel since then, including before, during and after the four-year death penalty moratorium in the United States in the 1970s.
At a time when picking pockets was a capital offense in England, crowds watching public hangings were plauged by cutpurses.

[ December 17, 2007, 05:52 PM: Message edited by: Jesse ]

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Richard Dey
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But this is preposterous! Everybody and everything in New Jersey is "inconsistent with evolving standards of decency."
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LoverOfJoy
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I wonder if convicted criminals were given the choice of life in prison with no possibility of parole or death penalty how many if any would choose the death penalty.
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Jesse
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Depends on when you asked. Suicide watches in prisons are a reality.

It's not all that relevant, anyway, though.

How many commit a murder, believing it's worth life in prison but would not be worth dying for?

They're either acting on impulse, or acting in the belief that they will not get caught, in virtually all cases.

Interesting, isn't it, that the CU denver study assumes that all those sentenced are guilty when calculating the risk of arrest and conviction?

If we were to quiz those arrested for murder, how many of them do you think would give a remotely accurate answer to the question "How many people were executed in this state this year?"

[ December 17, 2007, 07:40 PM: Message edited by: Jesse ]

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flydye45
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New Jersey has had decades of neglect with regard to the death penalty. The Supreme Court presided over by the Chief Justice, found any excuse to overturn, delay, or ignore any DP conviction. In NJ, death penalty convicts die of old age.

As a Conservative, I am in favor of states deciding these little questions for themselves. If the Death Penalty, why not abortion?

Do I agree with this decision? No, which is why I live in Ohio. And this is a lot fairer to the population. Instead of having a skirt wearing elite use every loophole to ignore a legally enacted law (i.e. the will of the people), the legislature now has to face the music on their choices, starting with Corzine.

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Everard
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"As a Conservative, I am in favor of states deciding these little questions for themselves. If the Death Penalty, why not abortion?"

Ignoring any position either of us has on either of these issues, I think the answer to your question is fairl clear: If the death penalty isn't cruel and unusual punishment, there's no constitutional provision that turns the question one way or the other. For abortion, I don't think there's a way of framing the question so that its not a constitutional question.

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Everard
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"Do I agree with this decision? No, which is why I live in Ohio."

You honestly think that the death penalty is an important enough question to determine where you live based on the answer?

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RickyB
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skirt wearing elite? Hmmmmm.
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vulture
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quote:
Originally posted by Richard Dey:
But this is preposterous! Everybody and everything in New Jersey is "inconsistent with evolving standards of decency."

You mis-spelled 'Delaware'...
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Getteur
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"What's your take on this? Can this decision be challenged in the Supreme court or the US Constitution leaves this up to the states to decide?"

It's the latter.

And while I agree in priciple that there are some crimes that deserve the death penalty, I'm with scifibum who says:

"I can't stomach the idea of executing people who were falsely convicted, since at least if they are still alive there's some minute chance that the error will be caught and the imprisonment ended."

Except that with technilogically advanced DNA testing and the efforts of some, the chances are becoming better that erroneous convictions are caught.

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flydye45
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There are vast numbers of reasons why I don't live in NJ anymore. The fact that the NJ Supreme Court worked assidusiously to avoid the will of the people is certainly nothing to sneeze about. What if the Mass Supremes suddenly turned against abortion, using every loophole to defeat it's easy usage? How warm and fuzzy would you feel about it as an entity?

quote:
For abortion, I don't think there's a way I want to frame the issue so that its not a constitutional question.
Here, I fixed that for you. Treat it like an ordinary law. There are any number of laws which impinge upon a persons soverign right to their body. Abortion is no different.
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Everard
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No, you didn't fix it, fly. The question is whether or not a zygote/embryo/fetus is a person. If it is, then its murder. If its not, then anti-abortion laws are an infringement of any number of constitutionally protected rights.
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DonaldD
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Actually, even if the zygote/embryo/fetus is a person, there will still be conflicting constitutional rights that need to be addressed.
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OpsanusTau
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quote:
Actually, even if the zygote/embryo/fetus is a person, there will still be conflicting constitutional rights that need to be addressed.
Right.
For me it hinges on whether or not we think the right to life is absolute or limited.
It seems fairly obvious that the right to life is not absolute.
So if a developing human in the womb is defined as a person, and that person's right to life conflicts with another person's right to liberty and privacy, it is not immediately clear which is more constitutionally protected.

(As I think I've said before, a right to life does not neccessarily imply a right to live essentially as a parasite.)

(/digression)
Hooray for the New Jersey legislature.

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Getteur
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I just saw an Old "Law and Order" episode that centered on a mass murderer serving life because there was no death penalty in New York.
The convict escapes and kills his guards and a couple of other individuals on his spree. In trying to evade recapture, he goes into an elementary school and takes a classroom of little children hostage.
Seeing no way out, he proceeds to start executing the children, killing four of them before he is rushed in on and apprehended. When asked why he killed the innocent children, he replied, "Why not? You can't do anything more to me?"

In an earlier post, I said I agreed with scifibum that "I can't stomach the idea of executing people who were falsely convicted, since at least if they are still alive there's some minute chance that the error will be caught and the imprisonment ended."

But what about in a case as above? There was no question that he did the murders--at least most of them. So...

Judicial law requires criminal convictions to be based on "beyond a reasonable doubt."
Why not a further penalty phase to allow the death penalty for certain crimes, and for the decision to be based on a jury finding of "guilty beyond the shadow of a doubt?"

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The Drake
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quote:
Originally posted by Everard:
No, you didn't fix it, fly. The question is whether or not a zygote/embryo/fetus is a person. If it is, then its murder. If its not, then anti-abortion laws are an infringement of any number of constitutionally protected rights.

Untrue. It would be an open question at best. If euthanasia, practicing medicine without a license, and recreational drugs can all be declared illegal then there is no reason why abortion cannot also be declared illegal without conflict with the Constitution.
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flydye45
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I really don't want to hijack the thread too badly, however your Constitutional issue is based on a very loose added interpretation of an interpretation the Constitution.

In plain text (the same plain text where hyperventilating gun control advocates make much ado about a comma in fighting against much clearer defined rights), there is no right to privacy per se, and certainly not to abortion. To suddenly create an "abortion right," this textual strictness is suddenly reversed.

My only sympathy to your "creation" is twofold; first in that the Founders did not define the rights in the Bill as limited to those defined, and that I happen to like some type of privacy right, though because of the nature of it's creation, it isn't total.

And quite frankly, your argument on personhood is irrelevant. There are perfectly legal state laws which make distinctions between legal and illegal killings of persons. No Constitution necessary.

It is in your interest to define it Constitutionally, no matter the merits.

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scifibum
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Getteur,

Thankfully such scenarios are more common in entertainment than they are in real life. However, it's a sad reality that there probably are some cases where it is clear that the interest of society would be served by executing someone. These are few compared to the cases where it's clear to some people and not to everyone.

On a continuum of certainty, there's no obvious line you can draw and say past this line, it's OK to execute someone because we're really sure he did the crime and he's a continuing danger. There will always be more gray area than black and white, in my opinion. So rather than try to establish a standard, I think it's better to say we don't execute people because the justice system isn't perfect and that penalty is too final for an imperfect application. This could lead to something like what that TV episode portrayed - and that's why it's not itself a perfect solution - but on the one hand, we can institutionalize and sanction the possibility of unjust murder by the state, or we can accept that unsanctioned atrocities by individuals are not completely preventable, but they don't define our humanity the way that government policy does.

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RickyB
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That has to be one of, if not THE best one paragraph explanation of the anti-DP position I've read. Respect.
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Everard
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"Untrue. It would be an open question at best. If euthanasia, practicing medicine without a license, and recreational drugs can all be declared illegal then there is no reason why abortion cannot also be declared illegal without conflict with the Constitution."

Would you like to re-examine that sentence for logical consistency?

"And quite frankly, your argument on personhood is irrelevant. There are perfectly legal state laws which make distinctions between legal and illegal killings of persons. No Constitution necessary."

Which only demonstrates that it could be possible to abort a person without abortion being illegal... not that banning abortion doesn't violate constitutional provisions.

"I really don't want to hijack the thread too badly, however your Constitutional issue is based on a very loose added interpretation of an interpretation the Constitution."

Not really. Assuming you mean privacy (which is only one of several constitutional problems with banning abortion) privacy has been a recognized constitutional right for as long as cases concerning privacy have been coming before the supreme court.

We also have the right to ownership of one's own body, which is constitutionally protected in not one but several places, including the 4th, 9th, 13th, and 14th amendments.

"It is in your interest to define it Constitutionally, no matter the merits."

Perhaps. But its also in your interest to define it as a non-constitutional issue, no matter the merits.

"In plain text "

I'm not sure that you've correctly identified how someone can be both pro-gun control, and pro-choice from a constitutional perpsective. In fact, I'm certain you have mis-identified the reading of the constitution that allow both positions to be held simultaneously.

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Richard Dey
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In response to Getteur's suggestion of a finding beyond a shadow of a doubt, I would have to ask just what light is being cast that creates yet another shadow upon whose sillouette we hang a man.

The problem of the death penalty is its own pendular history, and its history is its major detractor. The assumptions here are that capital punishment is simply an eye for an eye -- but the record of capital punishment clearly shows that, given an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, the revengeful will quickly take a life for a prick be it found in an inappropriate place.

My opposition to the death penalty is not based on killing people -- which, if I were king, I would do by every means every morning before breakfast just to focus my attention on a life to be lived better. My opposition to the death penalty is entirely due to my distrust of those responsible for determining what justifies it and how and when it is to be done.

It is not hanging I oppose, but the hangmen.

If there is a hanging to be done, I'll do it myself on my own terms if and when I decide it is appropriate to do so. How dare these mere senators and representatives and, what do we call them these days? Activist judges decide for me to take a life in my name? It is not just audacity but presumption; and by the record of Texas it doesn't even work.

The decision to kill somebody -- just like the decision to put citizens in harm's way -- is not something that should be decided on emotions or, as in the case of Iraq, by presidential fiat and executive order.

Of the hundreds of millions who have been executed, I venture to say that the vast majority were completely and totally innocent human beings; and being obliged to justify such actions after the fact is a pretty good indication that what passed for execution was just an excuse for murder.

¶ interesting blog I follow on the issue: http://isteve.blogspot.com/2007/11/murder-by-state.html

[ December 18, 2007, 05:25 PM: Message edited by: Richard Dey ]

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