STATEMENT ON BREAKING NEWS
ATTENTION: NEWS EDITORS; RELIGION EDITORS
1CONTACT: Celeste Fitzgerald 973-635-6396 or 609-278-6719.
New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (NJADP) applauded the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops today (Mar 21) on launching what portends to be the most aggressive campaign against the death penalty in recent history. The Bishops’ announcement is particularly relevant in New Jersey, because the first execution here in 43 years could be scheduled in 2005.
“All eyes are on New Jersey,” says Celeste Fitzgerald, NJADP director. “The state legislature overwhelming passed a death penalty study bill last year, but then Governor James McGreevey vetoed it. Now the issue is urgent, and time may be running out. ”
NJADP supports legislative bills S-1212 and A-3569, which call for replacing the death penalty here with sentences of life in prison without possibility of parole.
“We hope that New Jersey’s bishops will apply the new national abolition campaign strongly here and urge legislators and Acting Governor Richard Codey to support immediate passage of the life without parole bills,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said support for the death penalty has plummeted in New Jersey. “When offered the alternative of life without parole, with restitution to the victim’s family,” she said, “support for the death penalty falls to about 30 percent here.”
A poll taken for the U.S. Catholic Bishops recently reported that strong opposition to the death penalty among Catholic rose from 27 to 37 percent in recent years and those who intensely support capital punishment fell from 40 to 20 percent.
Since the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977, 956 men and women have been executed. During the same time period, 118 innocent Americans have been exonerated and released from death rows in 23 states. Sixty-five people were executed in 2003, 59 in 2004 and 12 to date this year. Nearly 3,500 people now await execution on American death rows; 11 in New Jersey.
1A grassroots group of 10,000 members, New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty has campaigned since 1999 for an end to the capital punishment. NJADP is core group of an alliance of more than 200 New Jersey organizations comprising 120,000 members. For information, call 609-278-6719 or visit www.njadp.org