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Legislative Commissions


Overview of the Commission and its Work


The New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission was created in 2006 by the New Jersey Legislature (P.L.2005,c.321). The commission’s final report, issued on January 2, 2007, recommended that the death penalty be abolished and replaced with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The Legislature abolished the death penalty on December 17, 2007 by the enactment of (P.L.2007,c204).

The commission was charged with studying all aspects of the death penalty as administered in the State of New Jersey, including but not limited to the following issues:
(1) whether the death penalty rationally served a legitimate penological intent such as deterrence;
(2) whether there was 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 was consistent with evolving standards of decency;
(4) whether the selection of defendants in New Jersey for capital trials was arbitrary, unfair, or discriminatory in any way and there was unfair, arbitrary, or discriminatory variability in the sentencing phase or at any stage of the process;
(5) whether there was 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 some of those guilty of murder was sufficiently compelling that the risk of an irreversible mistake was acceptable; and
(7) whether alternatives to the death penalty existed that would sufficiently ensure public safety and address other legitimate social and penological interests, including the interests of families of victims.

P.L.2005, c.321 required the commission to report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature, along with any legislation it desired to recommend for adoption by the Legislature, no later than November 15, 2006.

Moratorium on Executions

P.L.2005, c.321 also provided that, beginning on January 12, 2006 (the effective date of the enactment), if a defendant had been sentenced to death that sentence would not be carried out prior to 60 days after the issuance of the commission's report and recommendations.

Commission MembersCommission Members

The Commission consisted of thirteen members.

Reverend M. William Howard, Jr., Chairman
(Appointed by the Governor)

James P. Abbott
Chief of Police, West Orange
(Appointed by the President of the Senate)

Hon. James H. Coleman, Jr.
Former Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court
(Appointed by the Governor)

Edward J. DeFazio
Hudson County Prosecutor
(County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey)

Hon. Stuart Rabner
Attorney General of the State of New Jersey

Kathleen M. Garcia
New Jersey Crime Victims’ Law Center Representative
(Appointed by the Governor)

Kevin Haverty
(Appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly)

Eddie Hicks
Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation Representative
(Appointed by the Governor)

Thomas F. Kelaher
Ocean County Prosecutor
(Appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly)

Hon. John F. Russo
(Appointed by the President of the Senate)

Rabbi Robert Scheinberg
(Appointed by the Governor)

Yvonne Smith Segars
New Jersey Public Defender

Miles S. Winder III
New Jersey State Bar Association Representative

New Jersey MembersNew Jersey Members pdf


Transcribed Commission MeetingsTranscribed Commission Meetings

July 19, 2006 pdf  
August 16, 2006 pdf  
September 13, 2006 pdf  
September 27, 2006 pdf  
October 11, 2006 pdf  
October 25, 2006 pdf  

Commission Staff

Gabriel R. Neville

Miriam Bavati



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