The death penalty: NEW JERSEY VOICES"When Jamila was killed, our family embarked on the most difficult journey of our lives. In order to bear the pain, we had to accept that nothing we do to the killer will bring Jamila back. We needed her killer to be held responsible, but the notion that we must put that person to death to achieve justice or somehow gain "closure" is completely at odds with our reality. The death penalty system devotes all of the focus and resources to the murderer. This does not help us. A life without parole sentence for killers would represent swift and sure justice."
- New Jersey resident Eddie Hicks, testifying about his daughter Jamila's murder before the Senate Budget Committee, March 17, 2005
"If the death penalty hasn't been used in 20 years, society should ask if it should be continued. It was supposed to act as a deterrent. If it hasn't been used in 20 years, you really can't say it's a deterrent. "
- Thomas F. Kelaher, president of the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey, in an interview in which he also expressed concern about the recent number of high-profile cases in which defendants have been sentenced to death around the country only to be freed after DNA tests proved their innocence and the high costs of capital punishment, Asbury Park Press, September 11, 2004
"In my experience, it is just as possible for an innocent person to be wrongly convicted of a capital crime in New Jersey as it is in any other jurisdiction in the United States, whether or not it has the death penalty. Those elements that commonly combine to produce misfirings of justice occur within New Jersey just as often as they do in any other state. No state is immune to the distinct possibility of executing an innocent person."
- Jim McCloskey, founder of Centurion Ministries, a Princeton based national organization that works to vindicate and free from prison those who are completely innocent of the crimes for which they have been unjustly convicted and imprisoned for life or sentenced to death
"Much has changed since I voted to reinstate the death penalty twenty years ago. New technologies such as DNA and other evidence have shown that people can make terrible mistakes. It's increasingly clear that the very real risk of executing an innocent person, not to mention the expense and effort of trying to get it right, has led New Jerseyans to turn away form the death penalty."
- Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), responding to the release of an April 2005 Rutgers poll that showed that New Jerseyans favor life without parole over the death penalty
"There is a growing recognition that the death penalty simply can't work. It's a complex system that arbitrarily selects defendants for death and creates more stress and appeals, even as it is plagued by serious error. Each new exoneration reminds us of the unacceptable possibility of wrongful execution. It's no wonder that this poll shows people moving away from it."
- Senator Robert Martin (R-Morris), responding to the release of an April 2005 Rutgers poll that showed that New Jerseyans favor life without parole over the death penalty
"Lisa was killed by her husband because she was leaving him. After he was given a twenty-year sentence for her murder, I couldn't help but think about what I would have told my grand-daughter if the state imposed the death penalty. How do you explain the death penalty to a child? I could hear myself: "Daddy killed Mommy and the state killed Daddy, but remember, child, killing is wrong." What kind of lesson is that?"
- New Jersey resident June Post, whose daughter, Lisa, was murdered in 1988, speaking before an audience in Cape May, New Jersey
"I don't get the need for revenge. How does it make it better?"
- New Jersey resident Bill Piper, who lost his mother Irene to a rape and murder in 1999, testifying before the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee, 2003
"While serving as a Prosecutor I allowed myself to believe, based on certain studies, that the Death Penalty was a meaningful deterrent to crime. Today, rendering testimony before this committee, I readily confess error. I could not have been more wrong. In an effort to exact the ultimate punishment of society's most heinous criminals we have created a labyrinth of laws, procedures and endless appeals which, of necessity, drain precious resources from the legitimate goals of our law enforcers. Millions of dollars are dumped into the elusive crusade of ending a criminal's life by the hand of the state sanctioned executioner."
- Former Morris County Prosecutor Michael Murphy, testifying on proposed lethal injection regulations before the New Jersey Department of Corrections, February 4, 2005
"I spent almost nine years as the Prosecutor of Essex County. And in that capacity I sent seventeen people to the electric chair. It was me who decided which cases would be exposed to the death penalty. And I think that that's shocking. It was me. And I remember one case where I withdrew a recommendation for the death penalty because the attorney for the defendant was having a nervous breakdown. And that man did not go, was not sentenced to the electric chair, and not because of the evaluation of the case, but because his lawyer was having a nervous breakdown. That's how arbitrary it can be."
- Former New Jersey Governor Brendan T. Byrne at a press conference of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, December 11, 2000
"The legal system in New Jersey is no less fallible than the legal system elsewhere."
- The Honorable John J. Gibbons Esq., former Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
"It is nothing but a distraction from any sense of justice."
- Daniel Carluccio, Esq., former Ocean County Prosecutor, on New Jersey's death penalty