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Death Penalty for Cop Killers: NJ Lawmaker

On Sunday, Jersey City police officer Melvin Santiago was ambushed and shot to death by Lawrence Campbell, who was then killed by police. Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Jackson) said Santiago’s murder might not have been prevented if the death penalty still existed in New Jersey, but the incident has at least renewed that conversation.

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“It is time for this legislature to protect our law enforcement community,” Dancer said. “When it comes to somebody who would murder a police officer, I just think there needs to be a deterrent, and that deterrent is the death penalty. Reinstate it.”

New Jersey abolished the death penalty in 2007. Under legislation Dancer has sponsored since 2011, it would be reinstated if: the victim was a law enforcement or corrections officer and was murdered while performing official duties, or because of his or her officer status; the victim was less than 18 years old; or the murder occurred during the commission of the crime of terrorism.

“We will have no order in this state if our law enforcement officers are murdered and there’s not a price to pay,” Dancer said. “These men and women who are putting their lives on the line for us deserve to have us protect them.”

Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the full New Jersey legislature unanimously approved the death penalty for terrorists. That, Dancer explained, was also done away with when capital punishment was repealed in the Garden State seven years ago.

The assemblyman’s legislation also mandates that during the sentencing proceeding, the jury or the court would have to weigh the aggravating factors of the case against the mitigating factors in order to determine whether the defendant would receive a death sentence.

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