[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS. ARK., USA, N.C., N.J.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Jan 6 10:02:49 CST 2006
HPD LAB PROBE----3 more dubious cases found - but aren't on retest list;
Shoddy analyses of DNA are raising questions on why some convictions go
Despite more than 3 years of controversy over problems plaguing the
Houston crime lab, 3 cases that a special investigator identified this
week as having questionable DNA evidence were surfacing for the 1st time.
Others have been cited repeatedly as problematic, and yet they have
spurred little legal action.
Three of the 27 cases in which independent reviewer Michael Bromwich cited
"major issues" with the Houston Police Department's DNA analyses are not
on a list of cases scheduled for retesting by prosecutors in what is
supposed to be a comprehensive review, Harris County District Attorney
Chuck Rosenthal confirmed Thursday.
The unearthing of new cases with shoddy DNA analysis prompted concern this
week among defense attorneys and prosecutors. Defense attorneys and
scientists familiar with the 27 cases also questioned why little effort
has been made to challenge convictions in cases that have come up
repeatedly, even though HPD's inaccurate work in some was exposed as long
ago as 3 years.
"Nobody wanted to anticipate how widespread the problem was. So there was
a tendency to minimize any problems as exceptions," said Les Ribnik,
attorney for death row inmate Juan Carlos Alvarez, whose case Bromwich
cited as an example of the HPD lab's poor work. "Now that we see how
pervasive the errors were, we must ensure that all DNA cases are retested
and that appropriate action is taken on each."
Cooperating since 2002
After problems first were exposed in December 2002, Rosenthal's office
began the tedious job of identifying all cases that had DNA evidence and
in which the suspects pleaded guilty or were convicted. Prosecutors worked
with HPD to find them, ordered retesting of evidence by private labs and
alerted defense attorneys.
"The aim is to look at all of them. But yes, I am concerned that we may
have missed some cases," Rosenthal said. "I don't know how to make sure we
(review each case) because at some point we have to rely on information
Any newly identified cases will be added to the DNA-retest list, he said.
The DNA facility is one of five divisions in the crime lab that have come
under scrutiny in a scandal that has resulted, thus far, in 2 men's
release from prison and cast doubt on thousands of criminal cases.
One case with DNA evidence retested early in the process was that of
Ronald Cantrell, who says he pleaded guilty to sexual assault of a child
only after prosecutors confronted his attorney with DNA test results that
pointed to him. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison.
A private lab discredited HPD's work in 2003. Bromwich's report on the
crime-lab inquiry again highlighted Cantrell's case this week, citing it
as one of the 27 in which HPD's results were unreliable.
Yet, little action has been taken to use the new test results to appeal
Cantrell bounced between 2 lawyers in the months after his case was
identified as having possible problems. Even after new tests by a private
lab failed to link Cantrell to evidence from the 2001 sexual assault of an
8-year-old girl, neither attorney challenged his conviction, according to
county records and his 3rd lawyer.
"It's astonishing to me that the results clearing him came out in May 2003
and he's still in prison," said current attorney Terrence Kirk. "But he
had a lawyer who did absolutely nothing."
Cantrell's former attorneys did not return phone calls seeking comment
Such lack of action is not isolated. Several of the 27 cases that Bromwich
identified as having questionable DNA evidence have been under study for
nearly 3 years, yet little substantive action has been taken.
The lack of proceedings has concerned defense attorneys and scientists
familiar with the cases and surprised the prosecutor overseeing the
Though private labs have confirmed HPD's original work in more than 300 of
the 400 cases marked for retesting, dozens of cases remain unresolved, and
the Police Department findings have been contradicted in several cases.
"I expected to see a flurry of post-conviction litigation on these cases,"
Assistant District Attorney Marie Munier said last year. "But, except in a
few, there has been very little."
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Editorial: Why I think the WM3 are Innocent: Statistics, Stepdads & Serial
Killers -- By Jofo, antiMUSIC.com
My reading habits last winter managed to creep my kids out, which is an
especially impressive feat, given the fact that teenage boys comprise at
least some of said kids. Books on serial killers, "perfect" crimes,
gruesome murders & their solutions occupied my attention for a few months,
for no particular reason. As I read these books, I couldn't help but to
think of the West Memphis Three & their unfair trial & unjust conviction.
Although none of the books pertained to this case specifically, I managed
to glean some understanding on the case from the writings of experts on
investigating murders & crime scenes.
One of the books I read taught me that serial killers have the ability to
manipulate people into doing things for them & with them contrary to the
victim's own doubts or good sense. It seems this enables serial killers to
become killers of a series rather than just one. A person with this
ability, for instance, would have little trouble convincing a dentist or
oral surgeon to pull all of their teeth, for no good reason, even if there
were a murder trial going on involving bite marks as evidence. Call up
some different oral surgeons in your town & see if pulling all of your
teeth on a whim is something any of them are willing to do. You will find
that reputable dentists will refuse without some sound medical reason.
If you go to this link then you already know these rehashed facts, about
the DNA evidence that has turned up since the trial putting blood from a
stepdad & one of the victims on the same knife. This same stepdad somehow
coaxed an oral surgeon to yank all of his teeth through his strange powers
of persuasion after bite mark evidence came to light. These facts are
eminently ignorable, since the stepdad was never even a suspect & all
evidence pointing to him is dismissed or lost.
I read another book on a guy that was released after serving so many years
on death row, when DNA evidence proved he couldn't possibly have done it.
Interestingly, in spite of the work put in by the team of college kids who
did the research, found the real killer, fought for the release of the
patsy, resulting in his sentence being overturned & true justice being
done, to this day the prosecutor insists that a guilty man is now walking
the streets. I saw this prosecutor on a show about this case one night,
clinging to this fantasy in spite of the new evidence that proved his
innocence, unafraid to sound as ridiculous as someone who believes OJ &
Robby Blake didn't do it. How could anyone persist in maintaining a wrong
belief, when the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the contrary?
The released man's lawsuit against the state for millions of dollars for
wrongful imprisonment, etc. gives powerful financial incentive for the
prosecutor to keep pretending, in spite of how dense, stubborn & obtuse
such a position reveals him to be.
According to a Department of Justice website devoted to graphing crimes, a
child is 86% more likely to be murdered by a family member than a
stranger. Our wacky Canadian friends have figured out that in 'blended'
families, step fathers murder 60 to 100 times more often than biological
fathers. This well known fact has its own title & body of research behind
it, the prettily monikered 'Cinderella Effect'. If this crime had been
examined according to basic principles of Occam's Razor, laid down in the
14th century that have served the police well for generations, probably
the guilty party would be behind bars right now rather than three kids
guilty only of standing out from the crowd. Since expedience masks
incompetence well, if I were a member of the West Memphis, AK community,
I'd move out of fear. Not only is the entire legal branch of the govt. out
there ridiculously inept & quick to arrest & successfully prosecute anyone
for anything, but somewhere a murderer with a taste for little boys lurks.
The preceeding was an editorial based on the author's opinions and
conclusions about the West Memphis Three case (and others). While the
opinions in this editorial are solely the author's, antiMusic's encourages
you to research more about this case so that you can draw your own
conclusions and possibly become as puzzled and angry as the author. We
have provided the following links to aid you in your research Court TV's
Crime Library Site has an extensive article on the case and examines
arguments on both sides.
WM3.org is an advocacy site to "Free the West Memphis Three"
There were 2 HBO documentaries made about the case. Paradise Lost and
Paradise Lost 2 The 1st includes extensive footage from the trial and was
recently released on DVD. Your local video store may carry one or both
films. Netflix and Blockbuster Online should have both DVDs available. And
you can purchase both at Amazon.com at the links below.
Paradise Lost - The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills Paradise Lost 2 -
Death penalty favors victims over the thugs who kill them
I'm in favor of capital punishment, and so are 74 5 of Americans,
according to an MSNBC poll conducted after Los Angeles Crips founder and
multiple murderer Stanley "Tookie" Williams was executed by the state of
California on Dec. 13. His celebrity supporters who petitioned Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger for a reprieve are probably still in shock. They may not be
able to appear on "Entertainment Tonight" for at least a month.
I certainly respect those who hold deeply felt convictions against the
taking of a human life. I, too, hold deep convictions about those who take
an innocent human life.
I don't get all the fuss. If it's understood that taking a life warrants
losing yours in return, and you ignore that understanding, why should
there be a judgment other than death?
Liberals say such a view is simply a return to an eye for an eye. I find
it amusing that the same people who complain that Christians are taking
over the world will suddenly become biblical scholars when the need
arises. On the other hand, it is written in Romans 13:4, ". . . if you do
wrong, then you may well be very afraid; because it is for nothing that
the symbol of authority (the government) is the sword: it is there to
serve God, too, as his avenger, to bring retribution to wrongdoers."
Or there's always the charge of racism. But U.S. Bureau of Justice
Statistics figures show that in 2000, whites were the majority on death
row. The breakdown was 1,990 white, 1,535 blacks and 68 of other races,
despite whites committing the smaller percentage of murders at 46.5 %.
Liberal pundits point to other countries, suggesting that we are more
barbaric than other civilized nations because we impose "state-sanctioned
murder." But I like living in a nation where people have a say. Consider
Canada. Despite the government's abolishing capital punishment, 75 % of
Canadians support a return of the death sentence.
Then there are the prosecutors (lawyers) and the judges (lawyers) who
havent the guts to seek or impose what is just. Recently I spoke to the
relative of a person who was brutally murdered. This person said
prosecutors persuaded the family to support a verdict of life instead of
the death penalty. They spoke of the toll that would be placed on the
family by continuous appeals filed by the killer's legal team. But the
pain didnt end. "The jury found him guilty, the judge imposed a life
sentence, he went to prison, and now hes appealing the life sentence," the
relative said. Baltimore Sun columnist Gregory Kane wrote of the emotions
felt by relatives of murder victims. "That is a suffering death penalty
opponents cant or won't understand. The pain of homicide victims'
relatives never ends. It chips away at their souls and psyches year after
depressing year. So whats the appropriate punishment for that?"
As far as the cost, I turn to a quote from The New American: "Justice
isn't up for sale to the lowest bidder."
Of course the challengers (lawyers) have used every trick so that even
when someone is sentenced to death, he may stand a good chance of becoming
a charter member of AARP before getting strapped to the gurney. Tookie
Williams lived 25 years longer than any of his victims, thanks to his
But the death penalty remains, waiting for those unafraid to apply it.
And, finally, for those Hollywood types who infested the talk shows
campaigning for Williams' life to be spared, describing how he had
redeemed himself writing children's books warning against the dangers of
gang life, which in turn earned him nominations for a Nobel Peace Prize, I
got news for you. According to the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department,
"gang-related homicides are up more than 30 % this year (2005)."
On the other hand, I guess that's not to say that Williams didn't inspire
an entire generation of gang members.
[Robert Rinearson is a resident of Fort Wayne]
(source: Editorial, Fort Wayne (Ind.) News Sentinel)
Science versus the Death Penalty
Last December was a special month for U.S. executions. North Carolina gave
a lethal injection to Kenneth Boyd, making him the 1,000th person to be
executed since the 1976 Supreme Court decision to allow the reinstatement
of the death penalty. Soon thereafter, on December 13, California put to
death Crip gang founder Stanley "Tookie" Williams. The U.S. remains the
only developed Western nation to permit executions despite serious flaws
in the system. No need for any pacificist proclivity or liberal leaning to
see that--just look at the science.
First, there's DNA evidence. Although it cannot prove guilt beyond all
doubt--who can forget O.J. Simpson?--it can definitively prove innocence.
The 1st DNA exoneration occurred in 1989, and since then many on death row
have been set free because of it--the Death Penalty Information Center
(http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/) counts 122 exonerations since 1973. It
showed that too many convictions resulted from sloppy or overzealous
police work and prosecution, or incompetent defense attorneys. It helped
convince then Republican governor George Ryan of Illinois in 2003 to
declare the death penalty "arbitrary and capricious" and to commute the
sentences of all 157 inmates on the state's death row.
But DNA isn't the only contribution from science to this issue. Thanks to
psychology studies, we know that the human brain can, with rather
disturbing ease, create false memories. (See, for instance, a news story
on the topic in the December 2005 issue of Scientific American Mind, or
the feature article "Creating False Memories," by Eiizabeth Loftus in the
September 1997 Scientific American.) We know that witness testimony can be
unreliable, even when it comes from upstanding citizens and not just from
co-defendants or jailhouse snitches who have been promised sweet deals. We
know that some personality types are more likely to yield to the pressures
to confess--and that these people do so just to please their interrogators
or to avoid harsh treatment.
Most states are now recognizing the weaknesses of the death penalty. The
number of capital sentences have dropped from a peak in the early to
mid-1990s of a bit more than 300 per year to about 100 in 2005, according
to data compiled in the December 17 issue of the Economist.
Still, the U.S. public strongly supports capital punishment. In Gallup
polls asking, "Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person
convicted of murder?", 2/3 of Americans have responded "yes" for the past
The approval is actually down from the mid 1990s, when about 80 % were in
favor of it. (That many death-row convicts are not exactly law-abiding
do-gooders and have checkered criminal histories no doubt makes it hard
for the average American to feel much sympathy.)
I wonder, though, if Americans would be so predisposed to capital
punishment if the question included the rate of "by-catch"--those innocent
but are on death row nonetheless. Just how many innocent people have been
executed is not known; courts generally don't consider such cases after
execution, and overworked and underpaid defense attorneys turn their
attention to the living.
But we can estimate. The error execution rate has to be at least 1 in
1,000--the "1,000" being Kenneth Boyd and the "1" being Ruben Cantu, who
the Houston Chronicle seems to prove that he died for a crime he did not
commit. The Death Penalty Information Center lists another 8 people as
"executed but possibly innocent." That pushes it to about 1 in 100.
Estimates for the number of people on death row who have been exonerated
range from 25-30 from a prosecutor's estimates to 73 from a University of
(http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=753084). The maximum
possible error rate, depending on very loose assumptions, then surges up
to 1 in 30 to 1 in 12.
These rates are undoubtedly too high, but they help to establish an upper
So the poll question should be couched as: Would you be in favor of the
death penalty if 1 innocent person were executed for every 10 guilty ones?
How about 1 in 100? 1 in 1,000? Factor in the alternative to the death
penalty--life with no chance of parole--and I'd bet that public support
for capital punishment would dwindle. Science has shown that our death
penalty system is deeply flawed. Now the U.S. public needs to see those
(source: Philip Yam, blog.sciam.com)
Attorneys file clemency petition for condemned N.C. man
A man scheduled to be executed later this month deserves clemency because
both the state's child welfare and justice systems failed him, his
attorneys said in a petition this week.
Perrie Dyon Simpson, 43, is scheduled to be executed Jan. 20 for the 1984
murder in Reidsville of 92-year-old retired Baptist preacher Jean E.
A confessed murderer, Simpson spent the first half of his life as a ward
of the state, shuffled among at least 22 foster homes since he was 10 days
old. And the 2nd half he spent on death row.
If the residents of North Carolina knew the horrible circumstances of
Simpson's upbringing and young adult life, "they would support granting
Perrie life without parole," said Polly Sizemore of Greensboro, 1 of
Simpson's 3 attorneys.
In addition to the clemency given to Gov. Mike Easley this week, Simpson's
attorneys also presented a video in which child welfare experts say
Simpson's itinerant life left him unable to function in society.
"The system continued to fail, fail, fail and he ends up being a poster
child for everything we don't want to happen," said George Bryan, a child
abuse and neglect expert interviewed for the petition.
Then, after Simpson committed the murder he was not sentenced fairly, said
attorney Wade M. Smith, an expert in criminal defense interviewed for the
petition. In the video, Smith said that Simpson's background of abuse and
neglect formed "one of the strongest cases on mitigation" he has reviewed.
The governor is expected to review the clemency request Tuesday. He has
the option to commute Simpson's sentence to life in prison without parole.
When Simpson was 21, he and his girlfriend went to Darter's Reidsville
home on Aug. 27, 1984, intending to rob and kill Darter, who had given
them food and money the day before. They stole a laundry basket, three
boxes of tissue, a lamp, a flashlight and a portable AM/FM radio but got
Darter's daughter found him the next evening, tied to his bed with 2 belts
still around his neck. His face had been beaten with a glass soda bottle
and his arms were cut from wrist to elbow with the 2-edged blade from
Darter's own razor.
Simpson's girlfriend, Stephanie Eury, 16 at the time, was convicted of the
same crime as Simpson and received a life sentence. Though eligible for
parole in 2004, she is still in prison.
(source: Associated Press)
Suspension of the Death Penalty Is All but Assured in New Jersey
With a crucial committee vote on Thursday, New Jersey lawmakers all but
assured that the state's death penalty would be suspended for a year so
that its fairness and expense can be studied.
The review of the death penalty would be conducted a by a legislative
commission, authorized by a bill that the State Assembly's Judiciary
Committee sent to the floor after a 4-2 vote. The State Senate has already
passed the measure by a wide bipartisan margin, and legislators now expect
it to sail through the full Assembly on Monday. Acting Gov. Richard J.
Codey has promised to sign it before he leaves office on Jan. 17.
New Jersey has not executed anyone since 1963, but several of the 10
people on death row are close to exhausting their appeals. A state appeals
court has temporarily blocked executions pending adoption of standard
procedures for administering lethal injections, but the legislative action
is not directly a result of that ruling.
If the bill that advanced on Thursday becomes law, as expected, then New
Jersey would be the third state to impose a moratorium and the first to do
so through legislation. The governors of Illinois and Maryland used their
executive powers to suspend executions in their states.
The bill would also be the latest step in a push in some states to slow
the pace of executions, especially in light of advances in DNA testing and
growing concerns about the number of wrongful convictions.
Thirty-eight states have enacted death penalties since the United States
Supreme Court restored capital punishment in 1976, the most recent being
New York in 1995. But in June 2004, New York's top court struck down the
law, finding a central element of its sentencing provisions
unconstitutional. It appears unlikely that the law will be revived in New
York anytime soon, given the opposition from Democrats who control the
Elsewhere, about a dozen states are re-examining their capital punishment
Most public opinion polls have indicated solid support for the death
penalty. Underscoring the political delicacy of the subject, several New
Jersey legislators who voted for the moratorium on Thursday stressed that
they still supported the death penalty.
For instance, Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., a Democrat from Union
County, said he would have supported the execution of any of the Sept. 11,
2001, hijackers had they survived. He also said he shared concerns raised
by the New Jersey State Bar Association about possible flaws in the law.
"Let's once and for all have a precise, understandable policy in the
state," he said.
Since New Jersey reinstated the death penalty in 1982, there have been 197
capital cases in the state, and a dozen or so more are now pending. Of the
60 people sentenced to death, most have seen their death sentences
overturned and are now serving a life term in prison, according to a
recent report by New Jersey Policy Perspective, a liberal public policy
The inmate closest to being executed, according to people who study the
death penalty issue, is John Martini, who killed a Bergen County
businessman in 1989.
If New Jersey were to replace the death penalty today with a maximum
sentence of life without the possibility of parole, and each of the 10
people on death row were resentenced accordingly, the cost to the state
would be $15.1 million, according to Mary E. Forsberg, research director
for New Jersey Policy Perspective. In contrast, she said, it could cost
the state up to $845 million if court challenges in the same 10 cases were
pursued under current laws.
Such arguments, as well as a clutch of often heartbreaking personal tales,
played out in the State House on Thursday morning before a packed hearing
of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
One of the leading advocates of scrapping the state's death penalty,
Celeste Fitzgerald, director of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the
Death Penalty, talked about wrongful convictions in New Jersey and around
"They can and do happen in New Jersey, just as in other states," she said.
But Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, a Republican from Morris County
who is also a lawyer, said he opposed the moratorium because it was
"I have to quasi-agree with McGreevey," Mr. Carroll said, referring to
former Gov. James E. McGreevey, who in 2003 vetoed a bill that called for
studying the death penalty, in part because he felt that previous studies
Then there was the riveting testimony of Marilyn G. Zdobinski, a former
county prosecutor now in private practice in Totowa, who prosecuted Mr.
Martini in the early 1990's. She defended the current system as being
thorough and suggested that any criticism of how long a death penalty case
took missed the point.
"The people who are telling you there are problems with the system? They
don't know the system," she said. "The system is working. That's why it's
taking this long."
(source: New York Times)
Victims' kin, prosecutors split as execution hold advances
As debate over New Jersey's death penalty continued Thursday, prosecutors
and members of families touched by murder were on opposite sides from
their own peers as an Assembly committee considered further study of
The Assembly Judiciary Committee endorsed a measure, by a vote of 4 to 2,
that would create a Death Penalty Study Commission to study the economics,
ethics, impacts and possible alternatives of the death penalty in a report
due Nov. 15. The bill would enact a moratorium on executions until January
While the measure isn't explicitly a referendum on capital punishment, it
sounded like it Thursday, with prosecutors and victims split among
themselves on the issue.
Ocean County Prosecutor Thomas F. Kelaher called the death penalty an
"exercise in futility" and a "cruel hoax" on the victims' families who
have to watch an endless appeals process.
Kelaher cited the case of Robert O. Marshall of Toms River, whose
20-year-old death sentence was overturned last year because of an
inadequate defense. That means more delay toward resolution in a case of a
man who hired a hit man to kill his wife in 1984.
"It's like spanking your kid on their way out to college for something he
did in kindergarten," Kelaher said.
But Marilyn Zdobinski, a retired Passaic County prosecutor, who prosecuted
John Martini, the death row inmate closest to execution, said the process
has justifiably taken long because New Jersey has been refining the system
to ensure fairness.
"It's like planting a seed," Zdobinski said. "If you want a tree, it takes
years and years. But eventually that tree that you grew takes shape."
Zdobinski disputed a recent report by the New Jersey Policy Perspective
that said the death penalty has cost New Jersey $253 million since it was
reinstated in 1982 without executing anyone.
Sharon Hazard-Johnson of Mays Landing told of the brutal death of her
parents five years ago during a home robbery. She wants the death penalty
to be used for those who are absolutely guilty and blames the courts for
dragging out the appeals process.
"Stop disrespecting the law. . . . Stop wasting our time and our money.
Other states use it. What's wrong with New Jersey's judicial system and
Supreme Court?" said Hazard-Johnson.
Eddie Hicks of Galloway whose daughter was killed five years ago, has
joined New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty because the
drawn-out process of capital punishment is hard for victims' families.
"The notion that we must put that person to death to achieve justice or
somehow to gain closure is completely at odds with our reality," Hicks
said. "It further complicates the already complex criminal justice process
and lengthens our connections to the murderer. It also puts the focus
squarely on the murderer instead of on the victim. The death penalty is
not swift, it is not sure, and it is not the kind of justice that helps
families like mine."
The vote went along party lines. Two Republicans opposed, saying they
agreed with study commission but not the moratorium.
Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex, the committee chairwoman,
said the bill should please death penalty supporters who feel the appeals
system is too long and costly and opponents who can take it as a 1st step
to abolishing capital punishment.
"Either side, I think, can like this bill," said Greenstein, who does not
want to abolish the death penalty.
The New Jersey death penalty is on a court-ordered moratorium on technical
grounds until the state adopts new procedures for the actual execution.
The last state execution was in 1963.
The measure has been approved by the Senate and is scheduled for a vote in
the full Assembly Monday, the final meeting of the current Legislature.
(source: Asbury Park Press)
Execution suspension advances----Bill would let panel study death penalty
A bill imposing a year-long moratorium on executions and launching a study
on whether capital punishment is fair and worth the cost will head to the
full Assembly on Monday.
The bill, which moved out of committee yesterday, has elicited strong
feelings, with opponents claiming it is designed to find reasons to end
the death penalty in the state, and proponents saying the system needs to
Committee Chairwoman Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer) said the measure is one
both sides should be able to agree upon because it will clarify the
issues. She said a system that hasn't executed an inmate since capital
punishment was reinstated 23 years ago is broken.
"We need to take a close look at what we're doing and whether the state
has the will to continue this," she said.
In November, opponents of capital punishment and a Trenton-based liberal
think tank released a study that said the death penalty has cost taxpayers
$253 million since it was reinstated in 1982.
Members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee passed the bill (A2347) in a
4-2 vote. Assemblymen Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris) and Christopher
Connors (R-Ocean) did not support it because of the moratorium.
"I'm not persuaded yet if the death penalty is the moral thing to do,"
Carroll said. "I can not find it in my heart to support this bill if it
involves a moratorium."
The Senate passed an identical version last month and acting Gov. Richard
Codey has said he would likely support the moratorium.
A 13-member commission comprised of lawmakers, prosecutors, a public
defender, a representative of the New Jersey State Bar Association and
relatives of murder victims would be created to study whether capital
punishment is "discriminatory in any way" and "consistent with evolving
standards of decency."
The commission would have until Nov. 15 to report, but the moratorium
would remain in place for another 60 days.
One of the bill's sponsors, Assemblyman Christopher Bateman (R-Somerset),
said the time is right to review the death penalty since advances in DNA
testing have exonerated death row inmates in other states.
Sharon Hazard-Johnson, whose parents were murdered in 2001, however,
criticized legislators for being insensitive to the families of murder
"This is an appeal to you, our legislators and our judges, to stop
disrespecting the law. ... Keep the death penalty and use it when it fits
the crime," said Hazard-Johnson, who also testified that she and her
siblings want their parents' killer executed. "All of the men on New
Jersey's death row committed horrible murders."
Not everyone thinks the system needs to be fixed. Marilyn Zdobinski, an
attorney who prosecuted death penalty cases in Bergen and Passaic
counties, testified that it should take this long to put someone to death.
"The system is working," she said. "That's why it's taken this long.
There's a natural progression.
(source: The (Newark) Star-Ledger)
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