Thursday, March 19, 2009

Good news 

New Mexico Bans Death Penalty

SANTA FE, N.M. — Gov. Bill Richardson signed legislation Wednesday repealing New Mexico's death penalty, making it the second state to ban executions since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Richardson, a Democrat who formerly supported capital punishment, said signing the bill was the "most difficult decision" of his political life but that "the potential for ... execution of an innocent person stands as anathema to our very sensibilities as human beings."

Richardson said he made the decision after going to the state penitentiary, where he saw the death chamber and visited the maximum security unit where those sentenced to life without parole could be housed. "My conclusion was those cells are something that may be worse than death," he said. "I believe this is a just punishment."...

With Richardson signing the measure, New Mexico joins 14 other states that do not impose capital punishment. New Jersey, in 2007, was the first and only other state to outlaw capital punishment since its reinstatement by the Supreme Court....

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, former President Jimmy Carter and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish were among those who called on Richardson to sign the bill. The governor also said his solicitation for input from residents received 12,000 responses by phone, e-mail and visits and that more than three-fourths were in favor of repeal....

Richardson said he didn't have confidence in the criminal justice system as the final arbiter of life and death. "If you're going to put somebody to death, the ... criminal justice system has to be perfect, and it isn't," he said.

I'm happy to say that I wrote Richardson an e-mail urging him to do this. The death penalty is part of the "murder on TV" business that led to Iraq; maybe governors doing this can help to make Americans a bit less insane.


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