[JURIST] A New Jersey state commission recommended Tuesday that the state abolish the death penalty, replacing it with a life sentence without the possibility of parole. A report [text, PDF] 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." New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, a longtime opponent of capital punishment, welcomed the report [statement] and said he would work with the legislature to implement it.
The US Supreme Court effectively halted capital punishment in 1972 by ruling in Furman v. Georgia [opinion text] that existing federal and state death penalty laws were "arbitrary and capricious" and contrary to the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, but 38 states subsequently changed their laws to allow the death penalty to continue in their jurisdictions. If the commission's report makes its way into law New Jersey will become the first US jurisdiction to ban capital punishment in over 35 years. The New York Times has more.