Growing out of fears that innocent death row mates will be executed, New Mexico joined other states that have either abolished the death penalty or put it on hold pending review of the practice.
The office of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson announced that the governor signed a bill yesterday that abolishes the death penalty, replacing it with life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"Regardless of my personal opinion about the death penalty, I do not have confidence in the criminal justice system as it currently operates to be the final arbiter when it comes to who lives and who dies for their crime."
"Faced with the reality that our system for imposing the death penalty can never be perfect, my conscience compels me to replace the death penalty with a solution that keeps society safe.
"Throughout my adult life, I have been a firm believer in the death penalty as a just punishment -- in very rare instances, and only for the most heinous crimes. I still believe that."
New Mexico joins 14 other state that no longer impose the death penalty, with several other states considering changes in their capital punishment laws.
Richardson also said he is bothered by the fact that so many minorities are “over-represented” in death row populations.
New Mexico state Rep. Gail Chasey, who first introduced the bill 10 years ago, echoed the sentiment that the appeals process is very costly. She said reversing the death penalty will “spare” the state from mounting costs of the appeal process.
She also stressed the hardship on the families of victims that the appeal process causes. She said:
"Every time there is a court hearing, a conviction, an appeal, the focus is on the defendant, but the family still has to go through it all again and again. It's very, very hard for the families. It reopens the wounds each time. We can put that money toward enhancing law enforcement, public works, you name it."