When a New Jersey commission recommended last month that the state abolish the death penalty in favor of life imprisonment without parole, some lawmakers called it the latest example of going soft on crime. A Newark Star-Ledger analysis of trials since August 1982, when capital punishment was reinstated, shows scores of murderers would have been punished more harshly under the life-without-parole bill proposed by the Death Penalty Study Commission.
Had it been enacted 25 years ago, the number of executions would have remained unchanged, at zero, while more than 100 murderers who might one day go free would face the certainty of dying in prison. Example: Danny Harris fatally shot a man in 1991. A jury found found 13 reasons to spare his life. Sentenced to 30 years in prison, Harris will be 61 at his release date in 2021. Had the commission’s proposal been in effect, he would be serving life without parole.