The Bridge Connecting Pontius Pilate's Sentencing of Jesus to the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission's Concerns Over Executing the Innocent: When Human Beings with Inherently Human Flaws Determine Guilt or Innocence and Life or Death

30 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2009

See all articles by James B. Johnston

James B. Johnston

Seton Hall University - School of Law

Date Written: January 4, 2009

Abstract

The goal of this discussion is to use Pontius Pilate's sentencing of Jesus as a metaphor for our imperfect criminal justice system as it relates to capital punishment. There are few injustices that are more unacceptable than when an innocent defendant is convicted of a crime he did not commit. Such injustices are especially egregious when the defendant is wrongfully convicted of capital murder and faces execution. Such wrongful convictions can be attributed to a variety of reasons with one single denominator; we as humans are imperfect and the way we administer criminal justice is imperfect, Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea sentenced an innocent Jesus to execution on the cross. The arrest, trial and sentencing of Jesus is instructive for 21st Century capital punishment jurisprudence. First, Jesus was innocent. Second, Jesus represented himself pro se with no legal representation. The trial of Jesus was less a trial and more a murder motivated by greed, ambition and dishonesty. Characteristics that are so inherently human. New Jersey's cutting edge decision to abolish capital punishment was a result of a report filed by the New Jersey Death Penalty study Commission. The Commission was very concerned with the very real possibility of executing an innocent capital defendant, in part because of the fact that simply, we as humans are as imperfect as our criminal justice system.

Suggested Citation

Johnston, James B., The Bridge Connecting Pontius Pilate's Sentencing of Jesus to the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission's Concerns Over Executing the Innocent: When Human Beings with Inherently Human Flaws Determine Guilt or Innocence and Life or Death (January 4, 2009). Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion, Forthcoming; Seton Hall Public Law Research Paper No. 1323162. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1323162

James B. Johnston (Contact Author)

Seton Hall University - School of Law ( email )

One Newark Center
Newark, NJ 07102-5210
United States

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