NEW JERSEY: PANEL SEEKS END OF DEATH PENALTY
May 10, 2007: aÂ State Senate committee passed a bill that would make New Jersey the first state to abolish the death penalty since states began reinstating their capital punishment laws more than three decades ago.
Under the measure, which was approved in an 8-to-2 vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the death penalty would be replaced with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for the most serious of crimes. Should the measure become law, New Jersey would be one of 13 states without capital punishment. The other 12 never passed a new death penalty law, or at least a valid or constitutional one, after the United States Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
The committeeâs chairman, Senator John H. Adler, a Democrat from Cherry Hill, predicted that the full Senate would approve the measure. The billâs sponsor, Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, a Democrat from Union County, was less confident. Should the Senate approve the measure, its fate in the Assembly is less certain. Joseph Donnelly, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr., a Democrat, said that although Mr. Roberts supported abolition of the death penalty, the issue had yet to be scheduled for action or even fully discussed by the Democratic caucus because of the press of budget deliberations and other issues.
New Jersey performed its last execution in 1963, and its death row population has been whittled down to nine men. (Sources: New York Times, 10/05/2007)