[JURIST] New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine on Monday signed into law [press release] a bill ending the use of capital punishment [PDF text], making New Jersey the first state to abolish the use of the death penalty since the US Supreme Court reinstated it nationally in 1976. The legislation was passed by the New Jersey Assembly last week, just days after being approved by the state Senate [JURIST reports]. During Monday's signing ceremony [press release], Corzine said:
Today New Jersey evolves. This is a day of progress for us and for the millions of people across our nation and around the globe who reject the death penalty as a moral or practical response to the grievous, even heinous, crime of murder. I have been moved by the passionate views on both sides of this issue, and I firmly believe that replacing the death penalty with life in prison without parole best captures our State's highest values and reflects our best efforts to search for true justice.
Eight inmates were on New Jersey's death row when the legislation was passed by the state legislature, but Corzine commuted their sentences Sunday to life in prison without parole.
Bill proponents, including Corzine, have argued that capital punishment spends more tax dollars than life in prison without parole [NJ Senate report, PDF; NYT op-ed], and say that capital punishment statistically does not deter homicide. A report [PDF text; JURIST report] released in January and 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." AP has more.