December 18, 2014 · 26 Kislev

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The Moratorium and Abolition Movements
The moratorium movement began in 1997, when the American Bar Association (ABA) called on each jurisdiction that imposes the death penalty to suspend it until the risk of executing innocent persons is minimized. The abolition movement began when New Jersey lawmakers abolished the death penalty in 2007.

The moratorium movement began in earnest in 1997, when the American Bar Association (ABA) passed a moratorium resolutioncalling on each jurisdiction that imposes the death penalty to suspend its practice until all death penalty cases are administered fairly and impartially, in accordance with due process, and that the risk of executing innocent persons is minimized.

In addition, the ABA moratorium established guidelines for competent counsel which includes the appointment of two experienced attorneys at each stage of a capital case. It also stipulated that counsel should be provided with the necessary time and funding for proper investigations, expert witnesses, and other support services.

Former Illinois Governor George Ryan's executive moratorium in 2000 added new momentum to the movement of people who endorse the idea of a moratorium on executions.

Some people who support a moratorium on executions support the death penalty in theory, but believe that the current system is broken, and that no executions should be carried out until it is fixed.

In December, 2007, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine signed into law a bill passed by the State Assembly to repeal the death penalty in the state. This was an historic moment as it marked the first time a state repealed the death penalty through the legislature, and not in the courts. Most recently, the state of New Mexico also abolished the death penalty through legislative means. After the legislation passed both houses of the state legislature, staunch death penalty proponent Governor Bill Richardson was persuaded to change his position by a major outpouring of support for abolition from his constituents, leading him to sign the bill in March, 2009. The Reform Movement rabbis of New Mexico were all involved in this effort and their statements upon the abolition of the death penalty in their state can be found here.

This trend has continued with states like Maryland, Nebraska, Montana, Colorado, and New Hampshire recently considering legislation to abolish or limit the death penalty.

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