New Jersey became the first state in decades yesterday to abolish the death penalty, giving hope to opponents of capital punishment that Maryland and other states could soon follow. But the obstacles to passing a repeal or even a moratorium in the General Assembly next month remain high. Key lawmakers concede that the legislature is as polarized over the emotionally charged issue as it was last year, when a bill seeking a repeal was defeated by one vote in a Senate committee.
Still, the news of New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine's decision to sign the repeal bill yesterday and to commute the sentences of the state's eight death-row inmates led many to believe that the momentum in Maryland will be on the opponents' side.