Should NJ bring back death penalty? Colts Neck slayings renew call
COLTS NECK — A man accused of killing four of his relatives faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison. But some lawmakers say he and people who commit similarly heinous crimes should face a more severe penalty.
A group of North Jersey lawmakers have cited the tragic killing of the Caneiro family as a reason for New Jersey to reinstate the death penalty. Paul Caneiro is being held in the Monmouth County Jail charged with four counts of first-degree murder for the killing of his brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew and burning down their Colts Neck home.
Now state Sen. Steven Oroho, R-Sussex, and the other representatives from the state's 24th Legislative District are calling for the death penalty to be brought back.
"The gruesome murder of the Caneiro family is proof that we must reinstate the death penalty," Assemblyman Harold Wirths, R-Sussex, said in a statement. "We should listen to officials like Prosecutor (Chris) Gramiccioni, who have plainly said that this is a punishment we should be able to hand down in extreme cases of violence."
The renewed call for the death penalty came after Gramiccioni said at a press conference that if it was an option in the Caneiro case he "would have certified this case as a capital case."
The representatives have sponsored legislation that would reinstate the death penalty, but their measures have not advanced. The state formally banned the death penalty in 2007, but since that time there have been several calls to bring it back.
In 2014 state Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, told New Jersey 101.5 that the state opted to ban the death penalty "because we didn't put anybody to death." He added that under the previous system people stayed on death row "indefinitely."
Wirths told the Asbury Park Press that he doesn't expect legislation to reinstall the death penalty to move forward, but believes voters would approve it if it were put on the ballot.
"I'd love for this to be a ballot or referendum question," Wirths was quoted as saying. "I just can't imagine the argument on the other end."
According to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, at the time the death penalty was abolished eight inmates on death row had their sentences commuted to life without parole. Five are still in custody, according to the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
The Death Penalty Information Center also reports that from the time the death penalty was reinstated in 1982 to the time it was abolished in 2007 there were no executions carried out.
Ralph Hudson, who admitted killing his wife, was the last person to be executed, on Jan. 22, 1963.
The first electric chair was invented in New Jersey by Harold P. Brown and Arthur Kennelly at Thomas Edison's lab in 1888.
Gramiccioni told New Jersey 101.5's Bill Spadea this week that Caneiro's trial may not start until 2020 because of possible legal motions that could "stop the speedy trial clock."
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