James Abbott, Chief of Police of West Orange, New Jersey, recently spoke at an international forum regarding his experience as a member of the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission. Chief Abbott, who was Governor Codey’s Republican appointee to the Commission, said he did not anticipate changing his mind regarding capital punishment, but was greatly influenced by the stories of murder victims’ famlies who testified during the commission’s hearings. “I had no idea how much families suffer facing years of death penalty appeals and reversals….For every person that had been sentenced to death, there was a family waiting for the promised punishment to be delivered…. The reality is that there is no closure in capital cases, just more attention to the murderer and less to the victim. Unfortunately, it’s easier for most of U.S. citizens to name notorious killers than it is their victims.” Abbott lamented the lack of support for murder victims’ families: “I would want to know that the person who did it was behind bars for life, so they could never kill again, and that my family had the services they needed to heal and the financial support they needed to live without further sacrifice. Our Commission learned that those kinds of services were sorely lacking – and that they could be improved with the financial savings from ending the death penalty.” Read Chief Abbott’s full presentation here.

(J. Abbott, testimony at the 4th World Congres Against the Death Penalty, Geneva, Switzerland, February 2010) (posted April 7, 2010). See also Victims and New Voices.