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New Jersey legislature to consider abolishing death penalty

[JURIST] New Jersey Assembly speaker Joseph Roberts, Jr. [official profile] said Friday that the State Assembly [official website] will vote Dec. 13 on a proposal [A3716, PDF] to abolish the death penalty [JURIST news archive]. If the vote passes, New Jersey would be the first state to abolish capital punishment since it was reinstated nationally in 1976. The proposal is divided along party lines, but the two most influential politicians in the state, Gov. Jon Corzine (D) and Senate President Richard Codey (D) [official profiles], have voiced their support for the initiative. New Jersey currently has eight prisoners on death row, but there have been no executions in the state since 1963.

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. The Star-Ledger has local coverage.

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