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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

(Update x 2) Gov. Richardson Signs Bill to Repeal New Mexico Death Penalty

Update 2: John Holdridge, Director of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, released this statement on Gov. Richardson's decision:

“Gov. Richardson’s decision today to sign the bill abolishing the death penalty in New Mexico is a historic step and a clear sign that the United States continues to make significant progress toward eradicating capital punishment once and for all. Gov. Richardson’s courageous and enlightened decision should send a powerful message to other states, governors and Americans about the need to take a hard look at our error-prone, discriminatory and bankrupting system of capital punishment. It is a system incapable of ensuring that innocent lives are not unjustly taken. It is a system plagued by racial, economic and geographic discrimination. And it is a system that police chiefs, criminologists and statistical experts around the country agree does not deter crime. Gov. Richardson deserves enormous credit for acting in the best interests of the people of his state and the people of this country.”
Update 1: Here's the statement released by Gov. Richardson about his decision. Excerpt:

"... what we cannot disagree on is the finality of this ultimate punishment. Once a conclusive decision has been made and executed, it cannot be reversed. And it is in consideration of this, that I have made my decision.

"... The bill I am signing today, which was courageously carried for so many years by Representative Gail Chasey, replaces the death penalty with true life without the possibility of parole – a sentence that ensures violent criminals are locked away from society forever, yet can be undone if an innocent person is wrongfully convicted. More than 130 death row inmates have been exonerated in the past 10 years in this country, including four New Mexicans – a fact I cannot ignore.

"From an international human rights perspective, there is no reason the United States should be behind the rest of the world on this issue. Many of the countries that continue to support and use the death penalty are also the most repressive nations in the world. That’s not something to be proud of.

"In a society which values individual life and liberty above all else, where justice and not vengeance is the singular guiding principle of our system of criminal law, the potential for wrongful conviction and, God forbid, execution of an innocent person stands as anathema to our very sensibilities as human beings. That is why I’m signing this bill into law."
BRofficialphotoAt a 6:00 PM press conference, Gov. Bill Richardson announced that he has signed the New Mexico death penalty repeal bill. He reportedly called it the most difficult decision of his political career.

HB 285, the repeal bill sponsored by Rep. Gail Chasey (D, Albuquerque), was by the NM Senate on March 13, 2009 by a vote of 24-18. Prior to that, it passed the NM House by a margin of 40-28. Democrats hold the majority in both houses. It replaces capital punishment with life in prison without parole.

Capital punishment foes fought to get the death penalty repealed for a dozen years, with Rep. Chasey carrying the bill for many years The law will take effect on July 1, 2009 and will not have any impact retroactively. There are two people currently sitting on death row in New Mexico.

New Mexico will become the fifteenth state without a death penalty. The legislatures in a number of other states – including Colorado, Montana, Kansas, New Hampshire and Maryland – have all debated bills this year that would replace the death penalty with permanent imprisonment.

March 18, 2009 at 06:08 PM in Justice, NM Legislature 2009 | Permalink


Most difficult decision of his political career? At least he did the right thing.

Thank you, Governor.

Posted by: bg | Mar 18, 2009 7:29:52 PM

"will not have any impact retroactively." Does that mean the two on death row now can and will still be executed?

This is sobering, excellent news.

Posted by: Ms. Ann Thrope | Mar 18, 2009 8:05:03 PM

Yes, the sentences for the two on death row remain intact. Richardson could, of course, commute their sentences, but I read a comment by Steve Terrell of the New Mexican that Richardson has said he doesn't intend to do that.

Posted by: barb | Mar 18, 2009 8:24:09 PM