Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Mexico Repeals Death Penalty

Capital Punishment Repealed by Governor Richardson:

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Bill Richardson signed legislation Wednesday to repeal New Mexico’s death penalty, calling it the “most difficult decision in my political life.”

The legislation replaces lethal injection with a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

New Mexico is only the second state to ban executions since the United States Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. New Jersey was the first, in 2007. In all, 15 states now bar capital punishment.
While it may only be the second state to repeal since 1976, the fact that it was the second state in less than two years might be a more apt way of putting it. It may not suggest a trend, but three states (along with New York, which chose not to re-write its capital punishment statute after being declared unconstitutional in 2004) now join the ranks of those without capital punishment.

As I noted last month, there are also six other states with legislation pending to repeal capital punishment. While this may be recession-related and not indicative of a change in public opinion (which still supports the death penalty overwhelmingly), the Supreme Court, using its Trop barometer, could read this as a legislative trend regarding the 8th amendment.

Stay tuned.

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