New Mexico abolishes death penalty
New Mexico’s governor, Bill Richardson, signed a bill that abolishes capital punishment in that state—at least henceforth; the two people currently on death row in the Land of Enchantment will stay there. For crimes committed after 1 July of this year the maximum penalty will be life in prison without the possibility of parole.
New Mexico is the second state to abolish capital punishment since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976. New Jersey did so in 2007. The state used the death penalty very sparringly, only executing one person since 1960.
Richardson said that over 12,000 people contacted his office by phone, e-mail, snail mail, or in person; over three-quarters supported repeal. While he used to support capital punishment, he cites the possibility of executing an innocent person and the racial disparity in the penalty’s application as reasons for abolishing it.
There are now 15 states without the death penalty; two of them, Nebraska and New York, had existing statutes declared unconstitutional by their Supreme Courts and have yet to pass new laws. About 22.25% of all Americans live in a state without the death penalty. Many others, including Maryland, are considering abolishing it.