Posted Jan. 11, 2006 – New Jersey lawmakers voted Monday to put the death penalty on hold while a task force studies its fairness and costs, The Associated Press reported.
The measure gives a 13-member commission until November to report on whether the death penalty is fairly given and if alternatives would ensure public safety and address the needs of victims' families, AP reported.
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"By its action today, the Assembly joins the Senate in signaling deep concern that the state‘s death penalty system isn‘t working," said Celeste Fitzgerald, director of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. "Capital punishment is meted out unfairly and risks executing the innocent," she said.
Just last week, the state of Virginia ordered DNA testing for Roger Keith Coleman, who died by electric chair on May 20, 1992, on charges he raped and stabbed to death his sister-in-law in 1981.
Until the moment of his execution, Coleman insisted he was innocent, and his lawyers argued that tests showed semen from two men was found inside her and that another man had bragged about murdering her. The state is expected to get DNA results next week, which could clear Coleman's name.
New Jersey would become the third state behind Illinois and Maryland to suspend executions, but the first to do so through legislation. Maryland has since lifted its suspension.
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