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Last Updated: Friday, 14 December 2007, 10:24 GMT
New Jersey scraps death penalty
Death chamber in US. File photo
The use of the death penalty is declining in the US
Lawmakers in the US state of New Jersey have approved a bill abolishing the death penalty.

In a 44-36 vote, the Democrat-run state assembly replaced the death sentence with life in prison without parole.

The bill is expected to be signed into law by Democratic Governor Jon Corzine - an opponent of the death penalty.

The move would make New Jersey the first US state to abolish capital punishment since the US Supreme Court reinstated executions in 1976.

Campaigners say they hope the vote in the New Jersey Assembly will encourage opponents of the death penalty elsewhere in the US.

The death penalty is on the statute books in 36 other states, according to the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, although several are re-examining the use of capital punishment.

Fewer people were executed in America last year than at any time in the past 10 years.

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There has been a de facto moratorium on executions since the US Supreme Court announced in September that it would be considering a legal challenge against the use of lethal injections.

New Jersey has not executed anyone since 1963.

A special state commission set up in New Jersey reported earlier this year that putting prisoners on death row to await execution was more expensive than jailing someone for life.

The report also said that capital punishment had not deterred murder and risked killing an innocent person.

Megan's law

The end of capital punishment would spare eight men who are on death row in New Jersey. These include Jesse Timmendequas, a sex offender convicted of murdering seven-year-old Megan Kanka in 1994.

This case led to Megan's Law, which requires authorities to notify the public about convicted sex offenders living in their communities.

"My daughter was raped, she was strangled, she was suffocated. She was also raped post-mortem and her body was dumped in a nearby park," said Richard Kanka as he appealed to legislators not to abolish the death penalty.

"I feel the system has spit on me, has slapped me and I am fuming," Marilyn Flax , whose husband was kidnapped and murdered in 1989 by John Martini Sr, told the Associated Press.

Robert O Marshall, who was spared the death penalty in 2004 after he had spent 18 years on New Jersey's death row convicted of the contract killing of his wife, said the decision was long overdue.

"It's a huge waste of money and doesn't accomplish anything," Mr Marshall said from a New Jersey maximum security prison where he is serving a life sentence.



SEE ALSO
Alabama's fierce death row battle
21 Oct 07 |  Americas
Call for lethal injection boycott
05 Oct 07 |  Americas
US court reviews lethal injection
25 Sep 07 |  Americas
Tennessee bans lethal injection
20 Sep 07 |  Americas
Texas carries out 400th execution
23 Aug 07 |  Americas

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