NJ Death Penalty Hearings News Roundup
Yesterday the Death Penalty Study Commission met for the first time. There was a very good showing by opponents of the death penalty including Barry Scheck and Larry Peterson (pictured*), the first person in NJ to be exonerated using DNA evidence, as well as Kirk Bloodsworth, the first person in the US to be exonerated using DNA evidence, Lorry Post founder of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Bishop John Smith from the Diocese of Trenton and William Bolan executive director of the NJ Catholic Conference.
Bishop Smith explained as he testified before the panel,
The death penalty in our view is not consistent with evolving standards of decency. The death penalty diminishes all of us. We cannot teach respect for life by taking life.
Also pictured is Sharon Hazard-Johnson, a proponent of the death penalty, whose parents were murdered at their home Pleasantville, by Brian Wakefield. Hazard-Johnson has expressed concern that the panel is packed with death penalty opponents and she would prefer to see the death penalty end by a public referendum rather than by an act of the legislature. Also testifying on behalf of retaining the use of the death penalty was Marilyn Flax a former assistant Bergen County prosecutor who tried John Martini for the murder of Irving Flax. John Martini's final appeal is currently before the Supreme Court of New Jersey.
Although it was not necessarily front page news, the hearings did not go unnoticed in the media. Below is a listing of some of the articles that ran over the last two days regarding the hearings.
Daily Record- Report: 25 NJ Death Sentences Overturned
Star Ledger: Panel Takes up Life or Death Debate
Star Ledger: Death Penalty Foes Call for end to Law Say Life in Prison is Option
(in the print version there is a great picture of Bishop John Smith sitting in the front row. You can make out Lorry and Kirk as well)
Philadelphia Inquirer: In NJ, Pros and Cons on Death Penalty
Trenton Times: Daughters Killing Fueled Unlikely Crusade
Asbury Park Press: Death Penalty Opponents Lobby at Public Hearing
Asbury Park Press: Death Penalty Opponents Release Report on Overturned Convictions
Courier Post: Emotions Fuel Public Hearing on Death Penalty
Courier Post: NJ Death Penalty Panel Hears Testimony
NY Newsday: Report on Wrongly Imprisoned Jerseyans Fuels Death Penalty Debate
NBC10 Philadelphia: Report: 25 New Jerseyans Wrongly Imprisoned
*photo courtesy Associated Press