Citing terror attacks and ambushes on law enforcement officers as examples, State Sen. Steven Oroho is calling for a return to capital punishment in New Jersey, which suspended the practice (not used for decades prior) in 2005 and legislatively abolished it in 2007.
Along with Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May), Oroho on Monday introduced a bill that would reinstate executions for “deaths caused by an act of terror,” murders of police officers or of a child in conjunction with a sex crime, murders after a prior murder conviction, and for serial killers.
When announcing that he was introducing the bill, Oroho brought up the case of Ahmad Khan Rahimi, the suspect in recent bomb plantings in New York and New Jersey, as one reason the death penalty should be reinstituted.
“More recently, we witnessed a maniacal serial bomber with direct New Jersey ties attempt to inflict great harm on the public,” Oroho said. “Such contempt for human life as exhibited by these radical terrorists should be met with the most severe punishment that could be allowable under the law – that is to pay for it with their own life.”
Rahimi has not yet been tried, and the crimes of which he is accused did not result in any fatalities.
In 2004, a state appeals court ruled that New Jersey implemented the death penalty in an unconstitutional manner, and the state suspended the practice in 2005 pending investigation; in 2007, however, New Jersey became the first state in four decades to legislate against capital punishment, commuting the sentences of its eight death row inmates to life in prison without parole, currently the harshest punishment legal in New Jersey. The state, however, had not conducted any executions in decades.
In wanting to restore capital punishment, Oroho is bucking what has been a trend away from the practice, largely because of leaps in DNA technology, along with an understanding of how false confessions can be obtained, that have highlighted the sentencing and executions of innocent people. Since 1973, 144 death row inmates have been exonerated, and researchers estimate that roughly 4 percent, or one in 25, of those convicted in capital cases are in fact innocent of the crimes for which they are sentenced to death.