New Jersey will become the first state in four decades to abolish the death penalty under a measure lawmakers approved Thursday and the governor intends to sign within days.
Assembly members voted 44-36 to replace the death sentence with life in prison without parole. The state Senate approved the bill Monday, and Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat, has said he will sign the bill within a week.
Victims’ families have been frozen out of the debate.
The measure would spare eight men on the state’s death row, including Jesse Timmendequas, a sex offender convicted of murdering 7-year-old Megan Kanka in 1994. That case sparked a Megan’s Law, which requires law enforcement agencies to notify the public about convicted sex offenders living in their communities.
Marilyn Flax, whose husband Irving was kidnapped and murdered in 1989 by death row inmate John Martini Sr., said she seethes at the thought Martini will remain alive “while my innocent, loving, adoring husband lies in a grave.”
“I feel the system has spit on me, has slapped me and I am fuming,” Flax said.
Republicans said that’s why they would vote against the bill.
Assemblyman Richard Merkt said the bill was “a victory for murderers and rapists.”
“It does not benefit families. It does not benefit New Jersey society. It does not benefit justice,” he said.
Senate Republicans had sought to retain the death penalty for those who murder law enforcement officials, rape and murder children, and terrorists, but the Senate rejected the idea.
Democrats control the Legislature.
Actions have consequences.
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