NJADP Statement on the Release of Larry Peterson after nearly eighteen years of wrongful incarceration
New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (NJADP)
Trenton, New Jersey
“The fact that Larry Peterson spent a large part of his life behind bars for a crime he did not commit is a tragedy.
Thankfully, the jury in this 1987 capital punishment case rejected the death penalty. But his case is a sad reminder that wrongful convictions can, and do, occur in capital punishment cases. The next mistakenly convicted person may be sentenced to death, and that risk of executing an innocent person must be ended in New Jersey.
Serious mistakes like the ones that sent Larry Peterson to prison are even more common in death penalty cases, in part because of the added pressure and stress of putting a life on the line. These errors are costly to everyone – victims, defendants and the families of both.
It is heartening that, with his conviction vacated, Mr. Peterson is finally free and reunited with his family. But, we are mindful that the family of Jacqueline Harrison still suffers from their loss and now must endure the pain of uncertainty as this case reopens.
Nothing can restore the years of freedom wrongfully taken from Larry Peterson. Likewise, nothing can restore life to an innocent person who is wrongfully executed.
The Peterson case underscores the urgent need to replace New Jersey's death penalty with the more certain punishment of life in prison without parole."