New Jersey’s governor signed a law today banning capital punishment, making it one of only 14 states and the District of Columbia to outlaw execution as punishment for a crime. It’s a bold step, but given that the ban passed both houses of the state legislature, it shows the people in New Jersey are a lot more progressive than popular culture would lead us to believe.
As I read several accounts of the news, I was surprised to see comments posted by readers of various Web sites decrying the decision. “What if he raped and murdered your own wife or mother? Bet you would want to fry him then, huh?”
Talk about anger issues.
Seriously, despite the fact that the question is about as ignorant as anything one could expect to see on a public Internet forum, I had to ask myself. How difficult would it actually be to forgive someone who murdered a good friend or family member?
And how would that experience relate to losing a loved one via an accident? Could it be as simple as having a tangible target for directing one’s emotions?
I’m not certain that our modern-day society really equips us to handle situations like this, which is why actions like New Jersey’s ban are ultimately helpful, I think. We’ve seen how innocent men and women have ended up on death row, and in some cases, lost their lives because of a mistake. One underlying reason for those mistakes must be the tangle of emotions involved in a capital murder case.
“Society must ask,” Gov. Jon Corzine said today, “is it not morally superior to imprison 100 people for life than it is to execute all 100 when it’s probable we execute an innocent?”