Sunday, 15 March 2009

Gov. Richardson to Decide Future of Death Penalty in NM

On Friday, March 13, the New Mexico Senate voted 24-18 to repeal the death penalty in that state. This action follows a corresponding vote in the New Mexico House of Representatives in February.So the bill is on its way to Governor Bill Richardson's desk. The future of the death penalty in New Mexico is now in his hands.And, unfortunately, he appears to be on the fence.After yesterday's legislative victory, Richardson issued the following statement on the subject:

"This is an extremely difficult issue that deserved the serious and thoughtful debate it received in the Legislature. I have met with many people and will continue to consider all sides of the issue before making a decision."The governor has three days from the time he receives the bill until he must take action (excluding Sunday).

I urge everyone interested in this important issue to contact Governor Richardson today and ask him to support the death penalty repeal.

You can call the governor's office at 505-476-2200 or email him through his website at

If you are undecided on the issue, like Richardson, or if you want to refer to some talking points while contacting his office, here is a summary of the reasons why I personally oppose the death penalty:

The death penalty is applied unevenly and unfairly, and minorities are victimized in the process. Studies in several states have shown that the death penalty is applied in a discriminatory, arbitrary, and uneven manner, and is used disproportionately against racial minorities and the poor.

For example, a 1998 study of death sentences in Philadelphia found that African-American defendants were almost four times more likely to receive the death penalty than were people of other ethnic origins who committed similar crimes. Where is the justice here?

In addition to its biased application, the death penalty is demonstrably not a deterrent, and is irreversible, which is a problem given so many cases of death row inmates who have been exonerated after conviction, based on DNA or other evidence. (How many other innocent persons weren't lucky enough to be proven innocent prior to their executions? We know of at least a few.)

On a more philosophical note, Amnesty International describes the death penalty as "the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights."These are some of the reasons why most European nations have abolished the death penalty.

It has been more than a year since New Jersey abolished the death penalty, and prosecutors -- yes, prosecutors! -- in that state have found no problems with the new system, which replaced execution with life in prison without parole.

Ergo, I see no good reason to retain the death penalty, but a lot of good reasons to abolish it.Fingers crossed for New Mexico.

Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)

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