In 2007, New Jersey became the first state in over forty years to abolish the death penalty legislatively. Twenty-five years earlier, in 1982, New Jersey had followed a state-level trend by reinstating its death penalty. However, during the twenty-five years between reinstatement and abolition, New Jersey did not conduct a single execution. Instead, the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed numerous death penalty cases and consistently narrowed the class of cases eligible for the death penalty. This Note posits that the supreme court's narrowing of eligible cases was one of the factors that prevented executions from taking place in New Jersey. The Note further hypothesizes that this lack of executions created the policy space for legislative abolition. The Note then explores the effect that New Jersey's abolition might have on capital punishment in other states, as well as the potential influence of state-level abolition on the United States Supreme Court's evaluation of the constitutionality of the death penalty.
The Abolition of the Death Penalty in New Jersey and Its Impact on Our Nation's "Evolving Standards of Decency",
Mich. J. Race & L.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjrl/vol15/iss1/6