NEW JERSEY MOVES TO ABOLISH DEATH PENALTY
December 10, 2007: the New Jersey Senate voted to make the state the first in the country to repeal the death penalty since the United States Supreme Court allowed executions to resume in 1976 and established the nation's current system of capital punishment.
Passage in the Senate was seen as the bill's biggest obstacle, and in the end it was approved 21 to 16, receiving the bare minimum number of votes required. Though legislatures across the country have tried to abolish capital punishment since 1976, none have succeeded.
This year alone, the legislatures in Nebraska, Montana, Maryland and New Mexico have debated bills to repeal their death penalties, but each of those measures failed, often by a slim margin.
So far, opponents of the death penalty have succeeded only through court rulings, like a decision declaring New York's capital punishment statute unconstitutional, or through moratoriums imposed by a governor, like in Illinois and Maryland.
Franklin E Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said "a legislature-initiated repeal is a fairly significant step forward." "Today New Jersey can become a leader, an inspiration to other states," said Senator Robert Martin. (Sources: New York Times, 11/12/2007)