New Jersey became the first state in decades to repeal the death penalty as Governor Jon S. Corzine signed a measure to end what he called “state-endorsed killing.”
The state had reestablished capital punishment in 1982, but no executions had taken place. In addition to signing the bill December 17, Corzine commuted the sentences of eight men on New Jersey’s death row to life imprisonment without chance of parole—now the maximum penalty.
The New Jersey Senate passed the bill December 10. Three days later, after more than two hours of emotional debate about justice and retribution, the state’s Assembly gave final approval, 44-36.
“It is simply not for us to decide who should live and who should die,” said Assembly speaker Joseph Roberts, a Democrat. “Murderers have not been deterred in the 2,000 years the death penalty has been in effect,” said Assembly member Reed Gusciora, a Democrat.
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).