Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New Jersey Senate Votes to Abolish the Death Penalty

The New York Times has, "New Jersey Nears Repeal of Death Penalty."

New Jersey Senate voted Monday to make the state the first in the country to repeal the death penalty since 1976, when the United States Supreme Court set guidelines for the nation’s current system of capital punishment.

Approval in the Senate was seen as the biggest obstacle to the repeal, and in the end, it passed 21 to 16, receiving the bare minimum number of votes required in the 40-seat chamber. Three senators did not vote.

Legislators on both sides of the debate said they expected the measure to pass easily on Thursday in the General Assembly, where Democrats hold 50 of the 80 seats.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat and a staunch opponent of the death penalty, has said he would sign a measure ending executions.

“Today New Jersey can become a leader, an inspiration to other states,” Senator Robert Martin, a Republican from Morris Plains who voted for the bill, said during Monday’s debate.

For those opposed to capital punishment, New Jersey’s repeal would represent a victory that has eluded them in the modern history of the death penalty. Though legislatures across the country have tried to abolish capital punishment since 1976, none have succeeded. This year alone, the legislatures in Nebraska, Montana, Maryland and New Mexico have debated bills to repeal those states’ death penalties, but each measure failed, often by a slim margin.

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