State of New Jersey
Executive Order #72

Governor Christine Todd Whitman

WHEREAS, the New Jersey Death Penalty Act was signed into law by then Governor Thomas H. Kean and became effective on August 6, 1982, fifteen years ago; and

WHEREAS, in the case of The State of New Jersey v. Thomas C. Ramseur, decided March 5, 1987, the New Jersey State Supreme Court found that capital punishment as set forth in the Death Penalty Act is constitutional; and

WHEREAS, since the time that the Death Penalty Act became effective forty-six murderers have been sentenced to receive capital punishment; thirty have had their convictions and/or their death sentences overturned by the State courts; fourteen remain on death row at various stages of the appellate process; and two have died while on death row; and

WHEREAS, the State has yet to implement a sentence of capital punishment as imposed by the jury system under the Death Penalty Act;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and by the Statutes of this State, do hereby ORDER and DIRECT:

1. There is hereby established a commission to be known as the Study Commission on the Implementation of the Death Penalty (the "Commission") to examine the death penalty process in New Jersey.

2. The Commission shall identify areas in which the death penalty process in our State can be improved, and shall, where appropriate, make specific recommendations for change that would expedite the death penalty process while ensuring that the death penalty is administered in a just manner.

Among the issues that the Commission shall address are:

(a) Whether, and if so, in what manner, the appellate and post-conviction relief process can be streamlined;

(b) Whether, and if so, in what manner, the rules of evidence applicable to the death penalty phase of a capital trial should be modified;

(c) Whether a death penalty jury should be allowed to consider additional aggravating factors, such as whether the victim was physically or mentally impaired and whether the defendant has prior violent convictions other than murder. Under current law, a jury making a death penalty decision is not permitted to consider these factors; and

(d) Any other issues the Commission finds to be relevant to improving the death penalty process in our State.

3. The Commission shall consist of up to fifteen members including the Attorney General or his designee; the Public Defender or her designee; one Senator to be appointed by the Senate President; one Assemblymember to be appointed by the Assembly Speaker; one public member to be appointed by the Senate President; one public member to be appointed by the Assembly Speaker; a county or assistant county prosecutor to be appointed by the Governor; a crime victims' advocate to be appointed by the Governor; a retired State judge to be appointed by the Governor; and up to six members of the public, also to be appointed by the Governor. The Governor shall designate a chair from among the members of the Commission. The members shall serve without compensation, but shall be reimbursed for necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties subject to the availability of funds therefor.

4. The Commission shall organize and meet as soon as possible after the appointment of its members. The chair shall appoint a secretary who need not be a member of the Commission. Vacancies on the Commission shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment.

5. The Commission is authorized to call upon any department, offices or agency of State government to provide such information, resources or other assistance deemed necessary to discharge its responsibilities under this Order. Each department, officer, division and agency of this State is hereby required to cooperate with the Commission and to respond to such requests for information, personnel and assistance as is necessary to accomplish the purposes of this Order.

6. The Commission shall file a report with the Governor and the Legislature with its recommendations within six months after the first meeting of the Commission.

7. This Order shall take effect immediately.

GIVEN, under my hand and seal
this 6th day of August in the Year
of Our Lord, One Thousand Nine
Hundred and Ninety-Seven, and
of the Independence of the United
States, the Two Hundred and Twenty-First.

/s/Christine Todd Whitman


/s/ Michael P. Torpey
Chief Counsel to the Governor