Friday, 14 December 2007

N.J. Senate Moves to Ban Death Penalty

The Associated Press
Monday, December 10, 2007; 5:09 PM

TRENTON, N.J. -- The state Senate approved legislation Monday that
would make New Jersey the first state to abolish the death penalty
since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to impose the

The measure to replace the death sentence with life without parole
would spare the life of a sex offender whose crimes sparked Megan's
Law. With the support of the Democrat-controlled Assembly and the
Democratic governor, the bill is expected to be signed into law
within a month.

New Jersey has eight men on death row and hasn't executed anyone
since 1963. It reinstated the death penalty in 1982.

Among the death row inmates who would be spared is Jesse
Timmendequas, a sex offender convicted of murdering 7-year-old Megan
Kanka in 1994. That case sparked a New Jersey law requiring law
enforcement agencies to notify the public about convicted sex
offenders living in their communities. Other states soon followed suit.

Megan's parents, Richard and Maureen Kanka, have sent a letter to
legislators urging them to retain the death penalty.

"The inmates currently on death row are the worst of the worst in our
society, and to offer them the opportunity of life is a disgrace to
their victims, the jurors that deliberated their fate and the
majority of New Jersey residents who still support the death
penalty," they wrote.

The effort to abolish capital punishment in New Jersey stems from a
January report by a special state commission. It found the death
penalty was a more expensive sentence than life in prison and has not
deterred murder.

"The death penalty is barbaric and fatally flawed beyond repair,"
said Sen. Shirley Turner, a Democrat who sponsored the bill.

The Kankas, though, said the commission was biased.

"If there is any individual that deserves the death penalty, it's the
animal that did this to Megan," they wrote. "To abolish this would be
an injustice to our family."

However, the bill has been supported by clergy and family members of
murder victims who contend New Jersey's death penalty law has proven

A vote by the full Assembly was scheduled for Thursday. If approved,
the bill goes to Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a death penalty opponent, for
his signature. Corzine has until Jan. 8 to sign the bill.

The Supreme Court in 1972 struck down 40 state death penalty laws but
did not ban capital punishment as cruel and unusual. Some justices at
the time thought their decision would end the practice.

By 1976, though, officials in 35 states had adopted laws to comply
with the ruling. A more conservative court upheld some of those laws,
and a half-year later executions resumed.

Megan's Law sparked a national notification movement. In 1996,
Congress passed a law requiring all states to notify the public when
a sex offender moves into their community.

According to the group Parents for Megan's Law, 614,000 sex offenders
are registered nationwide.


On the Net:

Death Penalty Study Commission:

Megan Nicole Kanka Foundation:

© 2007 The Associated Press

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