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New Jersey Senate panel passes death penalty abolition bill

[JURIST] The New Jersey Senate Budget Committee Monday voted 8-4 to pass a bill [S171 text, PDF] designed to replace capital punishment with life in prison, paving the way for New Jersey to abolish the death penalty [JURIST news archive] all together. The New Jersey Assembly [official website] is scheduled to vote on the bill next week [JURIST report], and proponents of the legislation hope it will pass both houses before the legislative session ends on January 8. 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. 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.

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. AP has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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