Monday, 19 February 2007

New Mexico death penalty repeal bill should become law

New Mexico death penalty repeal bill should become law
February 19, 2007

Rep. Gail Chasey [New Mexico House of Representatives]: "I am delighted
and encouraged, although not surprised, that the New Mexico House of
Representatives passed a bill to repeal the death penalty by 41-28 votes
on Monday, February 12. This is now the second time in four years that the
House has voted to repeal the death penalty in New Mexico. Although I am
cautious, I feel an increasing sense of optimism that the bill will pass
the Senate and that Governor Richardson will sign the bill into law. This
will not be easy and perhaps the greatest hurdle will be convincing
Governor Richardson: (1) that the death penalty is a public policy
failure; and (2) that leading the country on this issue will distinguish
him and will garner profound respect and support both nationally and

Passage of House bill 190 reflects a growing awareness of the problems
which plague the death penalty, not just in New Mexico but throughout the
United States. 35 Democrats, joined by six Republicans cast their votes on
Monday against an exorbitant, ineffective, and error-prone system which is
imposed unfairly on the basis of race and socio-economic status and
perhaps most importantly of all, risks executing the innocent. Other
compelling arguments voiced by legislators during the floor debate
included that the death penalty fails murder victims families, fails law
enforcement and severely undermines the credibility and stature of the
United States among its international allies, many of whom consider the
death penalty a violation of fundamental human rights, entirely
incompatible with basic principles of fairness and democracy.

A unique aspect of the repeal bill is that it was not introduced in
isolation. It is part of a legislative package. The repeal bill is
accompanied by several bills which provide for meaningful and expanded
support and services for murder victims' families. This legislation
provides that some of the funds that the state of New Mexico would save by
abolishing the death penalty shall be redirected towards the families of
murder victims.

Murder victims family members have been a vital and compelling force
within the New Mexico abolition movement. Their courageous and
heart-wrenching testimonies, together with their articulate and passionate
explanations of their opposition to the death penalty have undermined the
traditional reason so often invoked by prosecutors and law enforcement
representatives, namely that we need the death penalty for the victims'
families. Although murder victims families are drastically and
understandably split on the issue of the death penalty, there is common
ground between all of the families. It is the purpose of our legislation
to find that common ground and provide victims families with meaningful
assistance in their time of grief. By abolishing the death penalty we
further hope to free up resources which can be redirected towards proven
crime prevention measuresmeasures which will reduce violence and will save
innocent livespossibly the single most important concern of all murder
victims families."

(source: The Jurist Hotline----Opinions expressed in JURIST's Hotline are
the sole responsibility of their authors and do not necessarily reflect
the views of JURIST's editors, staff, or the University of Pittsburgh;
Feb. 15)

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