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New Jersey's example of abolishing death penalty may inspire other states

New Jersey is on the way of abolishing death penalty, and this move may inspire other states to do the same.

New Jersey lawmakers are poised to give final legislative approval on Thursday to a bill abolishing the death penalty, becoming the first state to do so since 1965 when Iowa and West Virginia abolished it.

"I hope New Jersey will give encouragement to other legislators and public officials to have the courage to face this issue squarely," said Joshua Rubenstein, Amnesty International USA's northeast director.

Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said New Jersey reflects a growing national trend against the death penalty, with executions in decline and more states weighing abolition.

"We have learned a lot about the death penalty in the past 30 years," Rust-Tierney said. "When you look closely at the facts, it just doesn't add up to sound policy."

The New Jersey state Assembly began debating the bill Thursday afternoon and is expected to pass it. The Senate approved it on Monday.

Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine has said he will sign the bill, which would replace death with life without parole.

The United States has executed 1,099 people since the U.S. Supreme Court reauthorized the death penalty in 1976. In 1999, 98 people were executed, the most since 1976; last year 53 people were executed, the lowest since 1996.

The nation's last execution was in Sept. 25 in Texas. Since then, executions have been delayed pending a U.S. Supreme Court decision on whether execution through lethal injection violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Other states have considered abolishing the death penalty, but none have advanced as far as New Jersey. According to the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, 37 states have the death penalty.

Bills to abolish the death penalty were recently approved by a Colorado House committee, the Montana Senate and the New Mexico House. But none of those bills have advanced.

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