Posted Dec. 17, 2007 – With the stroke of his pen, New Jersey’s governor officially abolished the state’s death penalty Monday, and, in effect, spared the lives of the eight men currently on death row.
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The bill, which made its way through the state’s Assembly and Senate last week, also makes New Jersey the first state in over 40 years to ban the sentence to be replaced by life in prison without parole.
“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,” New Jersey governor, Jon S. Corzine told the Associated Press.
Corzine commuted the sentences of the state’s death row inmates to life without parole on Sunday.
Perhaps one of the most controversial inmates spared is Jesse Timmendequas, the man responsible for the 1994 murder of Megan Kanka. That case that drove the creation of Megan’s Law, which calls for local law enforcement to let the community know when a sex offender moves into their area, reports the AP.
The vote fell along party lines, with the majority holding Democrats winning the battle.
“New Jersey is setting a precedent that I’m confident other states will follow,” Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo (a Democrat) told the wire service.
But not everyone is happy.
“It’s simply a specious argument to say that, somehow, after six millennia of recorded history, the punishment no longer fits the crime,” Republican Assemblyman Joseph Malone told the AP.
Besides the Republicans, the families of murder victims are also upset about the bill’s passing.
“Just another slap in the face to the victims,” Richard Kanka, Megan’s father, told the AP.
New Jersey has not executed anyone since 1963 and 53 people were executed nationwide last year; the lowest total since 1996, reports the AP.
There has not been an execution in the U.S. since September; all are delayed pending a Supreme Court decision on whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment, reports the AP.
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