[Third Reprint]


ASSEMBLY, No. 1913










Sponsored by:

Assemblyman ALFRED E. STEELE

District 35 (Bergen and Passaic)


District 16 (Morris and Somerset)


Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblymen Johnson, Barnes, Chivukula, Gusciora, Payne, Assemblywoman Watson Coleman, Assemblymen Hackett, Egan, Conners, Assemblywoman Weinberg, Assemblyman Arnone, Assemblywomen Quigley, Previte, Assemblymen McKeon, Eagler, Edwards, Assemblywoman Perez-Cinciarelli, Assemblymen S.Kean, Ahearn, Assemblywoman Pou, Assemblymen Stanley, Doria, Senators Turner, Bagger, Baer, Lesniak, Codey, Suliga, B.Smith, Gill, Cafiero, James, Palaia, Buono and Bucco






    Creates study commission on the death penalty.



    As reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee on November 24, 2003, with amendments.


(Sponsorship Updated As Of: 12/12/2003)

An Act creating a 2study2 commission on the death penalty 1[and suspending] 2[, recommending suspension of1 executions until]2 1[such time as a report from the commission is submitted to the Legislature and the Legislature and the Governor act in response to recommendations from]1 2[the study commission]2 1[,]2 [has completed its report and1 supplementing P.L.1983, c.245]2.


    Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:


    1. The Legislature finds and declares that:

    a. Life is the most valuable possession of a human being1[. The]; the1 State should exercise utmost care to protect its residents' lives from homicide, accident, 1or1 arbitrary or wrongful taking by the State;

    b. The experience of this State with the death penalty has been characterized by significant expenditures of money and time;

    c. The financial costs of attempting to implement the death penalty statutes may not be justifiable in light of the other needs of this State;

    d. There is a lack of any meaningful procedure to ensure uniform application of the death penalty in each county throughout the State;

    e. There is public concern that racial and socio-economic factors influence the decisions to seek or impose the death penalty;

    f. There has been increasing public awareness of cases of individuals wrongfully convicted of murder, in New Jersey and elsewhere in the nation;

    g. The Legislature is troubled that the possibility of mistake in the death penalty process may undermine public confidence in our criminal justice system;

    h. The execution of an innocent person by the State of New Jersey would be a grave and irreversible injustice;

    i. Many citizens may favor life in prison without parole or life in prison without parole with restitution to the victims as alternatives to the death penalty; and

    j. In order for the State to protect its moral and ethical integrity, the State must ensure a justice system which is impartial, uncorrupted, equitable, competent, and in line with evolving standards of decency.


    2. a. There is established the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission.

    b. The commission shall study all aspects of the death penalty as currently administered in the State of New Jersey, including but not limited to the following issues:

    (1) whether the death penalty rationally serves a legitimate penological intent such as deterrence;

    (2) whether 1there is a significant difference between1 the cost of the death penalty from indictment to execution 1[outweighs] and1 the cost of life in prison without parole1[. In]; in1 considering the overall cost of the death penalty in New Jersey, the cost of all the capital trials that result in life sentences as well as the death sentences that are reversed on appeal must be factored into the equation1[.];1

    (3) whether the death penalty is consistent with evolving standards of decency1[.];1

    (4) whether the selection of defendants in New Jersey for capital trials is arbitrary, unfair, or discriminatory in any way and there is unfair, arbitrary, or discriminatory variability in the sentencing phase or at any stage of the process1[. Whether];

    (5) whether1 there is a significant difference in the crimes of those selected for the punishment of death as opposed to those who receive life in prison1[.];1

    1[(5)] (6)1 whether the penological interest in executing some of those guilty of murder is sufficiently compelling that the risk of an 1[inevitable and]1 irreversible mistake is acceptable1[.]; and1

    1[(6)] (7)1 whether alternatives to the death penalty exist that would sufficiently ensure public safety and address other legitimate social and penological interests1, including the interests of families of victims1.

    c. The commission will propose new legislation, if appropriate.

    d. The commission shall be composed of 1[11] 131 members. Appointments should reflect the diversity of the population of New Jersey. Members will be appointed as follows:

    (1) five members appointed by the Governor, 1at least1 one of whom shall be appointed from each of the following groups: Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation and the New Jersey Crime Victims' Law Center; and 1[three] at least two1 of whom shall be appointed from the religious/ethical community in New Jersey;

    (2) 3[one member appointed by each of the co-Presidents of the Senate] two members appointed by the President of the Senate, one of whom shall be a Republican, and one of whom shall be a Democrat3;

    (3) two members appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly 1[(],1one of whom shall be a Republican, and one of whom shall be a Democrat1[)]1;

    (4) the Public Defender or his designee;

    (5) the Attorney General or his designee1;

    (6) the President of the New Jersey State Bar Association or his designee; and

    (7) a representative of the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey1.

    e. Members shall be appointed within three months of enactment.

    f. The Attorney General's office shall provide staffing 3[and budgeting]3 for the work of the commission.

    g. The members of the commission shall serve without compensation, but may be reimbursed for necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties, within the limits of funds appropriated or otherwise made available to the commission for its purposes.

    h. The commission shall choose a 1[Chair] chairperson1 from among its members.

    i. Any vacancy in the membership shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment.

    j. The commission is entitled to the assistance and service of the employees of any State, county or municipal department, board, bureau, commission or agency as it may require and as may be available to it for its purposes, and to employ stenographic and clerical assistance and to incur traveling or other miscellaneous expenses as may be necessary in order to perform its duties, within the limits of funds appropriated or otherwise made available to it for its purposes.

    k. The commission may meet and hold hearings at the places it designates during the sessions or recesses of the Legislature and shall report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature, along with any legislation it desires to recommend for adoption by the Legislature, no later than 1[12] 181 months after the appointment of all members of the commission.


    2[3. 1[Beginning on the effective date of this act, if a defendant has been sentenced to death pursuant to subsection c. of N.J.S.2C:11-3, the sentence of death will not be executed prior to the issuance of the report and final action of the Legislature and the Governor in response to the Commission's report and recommendations] The Legislature acknowledges the seriousness of the questions raised herein. The Legislature also acknowledges that the commission will need to dispassionately examine all questions surrounding the use of the death penalty in the State of New Jersey. It is further acknowledged that the pressures of a pending execution might affect the deliberations of the commission. It is therefore recommended that no execution should be carried out until the commission has completed its report1.]2


    2[4.] 3.2 This act shall take effect immediately.