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New York Post


NJ's Execution Error

December 12, 2007

By Steven Malanga

New Jersey's Legislature is in the process of repealing Jersey's death penalty amid grand claims that capital punishment is barbaric and ineffective. Yet the politicians have paid little attention to the state's murder rate—which has jumped 44 percent since 2000, from 3.4 murders per 100,000 people to 4.9.

The nation as a whole has seen a modest decline in murder rates; Jersey's increase has been the sixth-highest in the country. And three Garden State cities—Newark, Camden, and Trenton—are among the nation's most dangerous. Of the 183 cities with populations of 100,000 to 499,000, Newark is the seventh most dangerous; of the 110 cities with populations between 75,000 and 99,999, Camden is the most dangerous and Trenton is No. 7.

Several recent studies have shown that executions seem to have a deterrent effect on murders, but death-penalty foes still argue that most murders are spontaneous acts of passion committed by people who know their victims—the kind of crimes that the threat of execution doesn't deter.

Yet these crimes clearly aren't Jersey's problem. The spike in the state's murder rate has been attributed to rising gang violence, centered on the drug trade and turf battles. In many cases, the state's murderers are acting with malice aforethought against anyone who gets in their way—not just other thugs but ordinary citizens, too.

Earlier this year, for instance, the press reported that threats against witnesses' lives had prompted the Essex County prosecutor to stop trying murder cases in which there was only one eyewitness. One of the most horrific murder cases in recent memory, a quadruple slaying in Newark in 2004, was attributed to efforts to silence witnesses in a murder case; later, a witness to that quadruple murder was killed.

What's happening in some of Jersey's toughest communities is a virtual breakdown of order: thugs, not cops, rule the streets, openly defying the criminal-justice system.

Yet none of this has elicited nearly as much outrage as the death penalty seems to have sparked among Jersey's legislators, who have no other major criminal-justice initiatives—nothing to help stem the violence in communities—in the legislative hopper.

Jersey would be the first state in the country to abolish executions legislatively since a 1976 Supreme Court ruling forced states to rewrite their death-penalty laws.

The rest of America should realize that the state that becomes the first to abolish the death penalty legislatively is a place of rising crime, where thugs rule whole neighborhoods and the criminal-justice system is unraveling. If only New Jersey's misguided politicians could be as passionate about those issues as they are about repealing capital punishment.

Steve Malanga is a senior editor at City Journal. Adapted from

Original Source:



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