A New Jersey legislative commission is urging that the state become the first to abolish the death penalty since states began reinstating capital punishment laws 35 years ago, the New York Times reports. The panel report found “no compelling evidence” that capital punishment serves a legitimate purpose, and increasing evidence that it “is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency.” The report, whose lone dissenter wrote the state's death penalty statute, came a year after New Jersey joined Illinois and Maryland in imposing moratoriums on executions.
Eight other states have suspended executions in recent years, most because of court decisions. Maryland lifted its moratorium in 2003, but a court essentially reinstated it last month. Experts said New Jersey was the first state to get an official recommendation that capital punishment be abandoned. Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat, supports repeal of the statute. New Jersey's last execution was in 1963; its death row population has shrunk to nine men. “We're in a period of national reconsideration of the death penalty,” said Austin Sarat, a professor of political science and law at Amherst College. “I believe what's happening in New Jersey will have a tremendously galvanizing effect.”