TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey is on track to become the third state to suspend executions while it studies the cost and fairness of the death penalty.
After receiving a crucial vote of support from the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Thursday, the proposal will head Monday to the full Assembly, which is expected to approve it. The state Senate already passed the measure 30-6, and acting Gov. Richard J. Codey, a Democrat, has indicated he would sign it before leaving office Jan. 17.
Illinois and Maryland have also imposed death-penalty moratoriums; Maryland's has since been lifted. But both those moves were the result of governor's orders. New Jersey would be the first state to put executions on hold by legislative action.
New Jersey has 10 people on death row, none of them on track to be executed anytime soon. The state brought back capital punishment in 1982. It has not executed anyone since 1963.
Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Roberts, a Democrat, is the moratorium's primary sponsor.
"This is an issue we should have confronted a long time ago," he said. "The injustice of the current system and the steep price tag of it as well means we ought to take a look at it."
New Jersey would block executions while a panel examined death penalty-related issues and for two months after the panel issued its report. The process would take about a year.
Concerns about wrongful convictions and whether poor people and minorities are more likely to receive the death penalty have led other states to re-examine capital punishment. At least 12 states besides New Jersey have appointed study commissions.
Thirty-eight states have capital punishment, although the highest courts of two of them, Kansas and New York, have overturned their death penalty laws.