19 December 2005 :though no New Jersey prisoner has been executed in more than 40 years and the state's death penalty remains on a court-ordered moratorium on technical grounds, the state Senate voted on December 15 to study the issue and delay any execution until 2007.
The bipartisan measure would create the Death Penalty Study Commission, which would study the economics and ethics of the death penalty in a report due by November 15, 2006, and enact a moratorium on executions until January 2007.
Critics said the measure is soft on crime and slants the study commission toward eliminating the death penalty.
"While I agree that this law needs some working, it needs working in a different direction," said Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Demarest. "It needs to go in a direction of resolution. It needs to go in a direction of seeking
out justice and not legal gamesmanship."
Cardinale said lawmakers should fix the death penalty by limiting appeals options and only administering it to those who are absolutely guilty.
But those who oppose capital punishment said there is no guarantee of not executing an innocent person and that the death penalty has been arbitrarily applied based on location, wealth and race.
Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Elizabeth, voted to reinstate the death penalty more than 20 years ago as an assemblyman.
"I made a mistake then," Lesniak said. "Thank God during that period of time we did not make a mistake and execute an innocent person."
The measure passed 30-6. New Jersey last executed a prisoner in 1963, and capital punishment has been put on hold in the state by court order since February 2004 until new execution rules are in place. John Martini, 75, who killed a Bergen County businessman, is closest to execution.