[JURIST] The New Jersey Senate Monday voted 21-16 to pass a bill [S171 text, PDF] that would abolish the death penalty [JURIST news archive] in the state and replace capital punishment with life in prison. The New Jersey Assembly [official website] is scheduled to vote on the bill Thursday [JURIST report], and proponents of the legislation hope it will pass both houses before the legislative session ends on January 8. New Jersey currently has eight prisoners on death row, but the state has not executed anyone since 1963. If the bill becomes law, New Jersey would be the first state to abolish capital punishment since the US Supreme Court reinstated it nationally in 1976. The Star-Ledger has more.
The New Jersey Senate Budget Committee voted 8-4 to pass the bill [JURIST report] last week. Bill proponents, including New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, argue that capital punishment spends more tax dollars than life in prison without parole [Senate report, PDF; NYT op-ed], and add that capital punishment statistically does not deter homicide. A report [PDF text; JURIST report] in January endorsed by 12 of the 13 members of the New Jersey Death Penalty Commission [official website] concluded that there was "no compelling evidence that the New Jersey death penalty rationally serves a legitimate penological intent," although there was "increasing evidence that the death penalty is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency." Corzine, a longtime opponent of capital punishment, welcomed the report [statement] and said he would work with the legislature to implement it.