TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- With New Jersey poised to become the first state in four decades to abolish the death penalty, opponents of the practice declared a historic victory and hoped other states would follow suit.
The Assembly voted 44-36 on Thursday to approve the legislation, which passed the Senate on Monday by a 21-16 vote. Gov. Jon S. Corzine said he will sign it within a week.
Supporters hoped New Jersey's move would start a wave of similar legislation. Thirty-seven states have the death penalty, according to the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center.
"New Jersey stands to embolden lawmakers who were as fearful of eliminating capital punishment as they were of keeping it," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "This is a harbinger of things to come."
Bills to abolish the death penalty were recently approved by a Colorado House committee, the Montana Senate and the New Mexico House. But none have advanced further.
The nation's most recent execution was Sept. 25 in Texas. Since then, executions have been delayed pending a U.S. Supreme Court decision on whether execution by lethal injection violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
New Jersey reinstated the death penalty in 1982, six years after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to resume executions, but nobody has been executed in the Garden State since 1963.
New Jersey has been barred from executing anyone under a 2004 court ruling that declared invalid the state's lethal injection procedures.
The Rocky Mountain News