SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE

 

STATEMENT TO

 

[Second Reprint]

ASSEMBLY, No. 1913

 

with committee amendments

 

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

 

DATED: NOVEMBER 24, 2003

 

      The Senate Judiciary Committee reports favorably and with committee amendments Assembly Bill No. 1913 (2R).

      This bill establishes the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission. Under the bill, the commission is charged with studying all aspects of the death penalty as it is currently administered in this State. Issues the commission must consider include: (1) whether the death penalty rationally serves a legitimate penological intent, such as deterrence; (2) whether there is a significant difference between the cost of the death penalty from indictment to execution and the cost of life in prison without parole; (3) whether the death penalty is consistent with evolving standards of decency; (4) whether the selection of defendants in New Jersey for capital trials is arbitrary, unfair or discriminatory and if there is unfair, arbitrary, or discriminatory variability in the sentencing phase or at any stage of the process; (5) whether there is a significant difference in the crimes of those selected for the punishment of death as opposed to those who receive life in prison; (6) whether the penological interest in executing certain persons found guilty of murder is sufficiently compelling that the risk of an irreversible mistake is acceptable; and (7) whether alternatives to the death penalty exist that would sufficiently ensure public safety and address other legitimate social and penological interests, including the interests of victims' families.

      The commission is composed of 13 members as follows: five members appointed by the Governor, at least one of whom is a member of Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation, at least one of whom is a member of the New Jersey Crime Victims' Law Center and at least two who represent the religious or ethical community in New Jersey; one member appointed by each of the co-Presidents of the Senate; two members appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly, one of whom shall be a Republican, and one of whom shall be a Democrat; the Public Defender or a designee; the Attorney General or a designee; the President of the New Jersey State Bar Association or a designee; and a representative of the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey. All members must be appointed within three months of enactment of the bill.

      The commission is required to report its findings and recommendations, including any recommended legislation, to the Legislature and the Governor within 18 months of appointment of the members.

      The committee amended the bill in section 2 to: (1) change the reference from co-Presidents of the Senate to the President. The President would appoint two members, one Republican and one Democrat; and (2) delete language requiring the Attorney General's office to provide budgeting for the work of the commission.

      As amended, this bill is identical to Senate Bill No. 1112 (1R).