Washington, DC – Today, as New Jersey becomes the first state in thirty years to abolish the death penalty, the Constitution Project welcomed a renewed public debate about this country’s capital punishment system. On Monday, the state Senate voted 21-16 to repeal the state’s death penalty statute; the General Assembly is widely expected to vote for repeal later today.
The following may be attributed to William S. Sessions:
“New Jersey’s comprehensive study of the death penalty revealed that current systems of capital punishment are terminally flawed. If we are to continue to use the death penalty in America we have both a moral and a legal obligation to make it a faultless method of punishment. As a nation, we can no longer countenance a system that endangers the lives of innocent Americans.”
(Sessions, a death penalty supporter, served as Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas and then as Director of the FBI under Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton. He is a member of the Constitution Project’s bipartisan Death Penalty Committee and a partner at a Washington, D.C., law firm.)
The Constitution Project’s Death Penalty Committee, which does not take a position on abolition, was created to address the profound risk of convicting and even executing the wrong people. The Committee noted in its report, “Mandatory Justice: The Death Penalty Revisited,” that “around the country, procedural safeguards and other assurances of fundamental fairness in the administration of capital punishment have been revealed to be deeply flawed.” The Committee, which includes death penalty opponents and supporters alike, went on to make 32 consensus recommendations for urgently-needed reforms of our capital punishment system.