TRENTON - The New Jersey legislature today gave final approval to abolish the state's death penalty, a move that Gov. Corzine has pledged to sign into law.

By a vote of 44-36, the General Assembly passed the measure to make New Jersey the first state to legislatively end capital punishment since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the ultimate punishment in 1976.

The bill, approved Monday by the state Senate, would replace the death sentence with life without parole.

Corzine, long on record as a death-penalty opponent, said today that he doubted that the prospect of execution deterred other murders. He also said capital punishment risked that innocents could be put to death.

"There can be no fool-proof system," he said.

Moreover, Corzine said, execution has been an empty threat in New Jersey, which last put a killer to death in 1963. "It hasn't been utilized," Corzine said.

Once Corzine signs the bill, New Jersey will become the 14th state to ban capital punishment by law, but the first to do so since the U.S. high court relegalized.

Contact staff writer Craig R. McCoy at 609-989-9016 or cmccoy@phillynews.com.