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Death penalty abolition in New Jersey could provide model for rest of US

Terry Kay Rockefeller [Member of the Board of Directors, Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation (MVFR)]: "I am a long time opponent of the death penalty, in all cases, for the fundamental reason that I do not want to be the citizen of a state that murders. My views were not changed when my sister, Laura, was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But, having a family member murdered has led me to learn a great deal more about the realities of the death penalty in our country.

Most murder victims' families never receive the aid, counseling, or support that 9/11 families received. Instead, they enter a judicial system where, if there is an accused who is brought to trial, their case will take years before trials and convictions and appeals are concluded. The cost of these proceedings and the emotional toll of waiting can be extreme. Very little in the way of services or financial aid is available for these families who are grieving, distraught, and very likely struggling economically. The state spends far more money to execute a person than it does to reach a swift decision for life without parole, including the cost of keeping a person in prison for life. Eliminating the death penalty would immediately make more funds available to actually help the family members of people who are murdered. And it would end the great inequalities in the ways in which the death penalty is meted out in American society.

So, I am happy that New Jersey appears to be poised to end capital punishment. I am proud that Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation (MVFR) and many family members of murder victims were at the center of bringing the study, debate and deliberation of the issues to this point. I believe citizens across the U.S. will learn from New Jersey that ending capital punishment will in fact increase speedy justice and make possible more effective support for all victims of violent crime. And, as other states follow, the U.S. will find itself in keeping with the leading democratic nations of the world."

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

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