It has been over four years since Amnesty International released its first report on the case of Troy Davis. In that span of time, three states – New Jersey, New Mexico and Illinois – have abolished the death penalty, and 17 men have been exonerated from our nation’s death rows after their wrongful convictions were overturned.
Yet Troy Davis, whose innocence claim did finally get heard last summer, remains at serious risk of execution. He was unable to prove his innocence to the standard required by the court, but the state of Georgia has been unable to remove doubts about his guilt.
It is a fact (and not a surprising one) that our criminal justice system is not perfect, and cannot resolve all questions before it, and it is interesting to note that all three governors who have signed abolition bills since 2007 cited this imperfection as a major reason for eliminating capital punishment altogether.
SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
One year ago today, Dec. 17, 2007, New Jersey Gov. John Corzine signed into law the bill abolishing the death penalty in New Jersey. It was the first time in 42 years that a state had legislatively ended capital punishment (Iowa and West Virginia did it in 1965), and made the Garden State the 14th abolitionist state in the U.S.
New Jersey politicians showed real leadership on this issue, and should be thanked.
What has been the result in New Jersey’s first year without the death penalty? Has violent crime sky-rocketed? Are wild dogs roaming the streets? Are murderous zombies now regularly feasting on human flesh??
Well, no. The consensus seems to be that not much has changed at all. As Richard Pompelio, executive director of the New Jersey Crime Victims Law Center, put it in an article in the Newark Star-Ledger:
“I don’t think it’s made much of a difference at all other than that some of the cases that were languishing out there are now getting tried. The important thing for crime victims is that the process have an end, and with the death penalty there never was an end.”
Other states, especially those like New Jersey with few on death row, fewer executions, and tight budgets, may be well on their way to repealing their own death penalty statutes in 2009. Maryland and New Mexico are the most likely candidates, though in every state the value of clinging to capital punishment is being viewed with ever greater skepticism, and in every state, activists are getting organized to push for abolition.
AIUSA has volunteer leaders in most states who are in the thick of this fight. You can get more information and contact Amnesty’s death penalty abolition leaders by going to our Death Penalty in States map, and clicking on your state.