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Montana Senate judiciary panel backs bill to abolish death penalty

[JURIST] The judiciary committee of the Montana Senate [official website] endorsed a bill [PDF text] Thursday that would abolish the death penalty [JURIST news archive]. By an 8-4 margin, the committee voted [hearing minutes, recorded audio] to send the SB 306 to the full state senate for consideration. Similar legislation has been introduced in the past three Montana Senate legislative sessions without success. Montana has executed three prisoners since the national death penalty was reinstated and currently has two prisoners on death row.

The death penalty has been recently challenged in several states over concerns about cruelty and procedure. The New Mexico House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal the death penalty [JURIST report] this week and earlier this month, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen issued an executive order [JURIST report] directing the Tennessee Commissioner of Corrections to review the manner in which death sentences are carried out and granted temporary reprieves to four inmates on death row. In January, a North Carolina state judge issued an injunction [JURIST report] blocking two executions until Governor Mike Easley hands down new procedures to execute capital defendants without the presence of doctors. Capital punishment has also been suspended in Florida and California [JURIST reports]. In early January, the New Jersey Death Penalty Commission [official website] recommended abolishing the death penalty [JURIST report]. AP has more.

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