Editor’s Note:You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session.”
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Just as our new live trial, New Mexico v. Brandon Craig got underway yesterday, there was even bigger news breaking in the state. Governor Bill Richardson signed into law a repeal of the state’s death penalty.
That makes New Mexico the second state to ban executions since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. The repeal, which passed a vote in the state senate Friday and was approved by the house a month earlier, will take effect July 1st and will apply to crimes committed after that date. Once in effect, the most severe punishment will be a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Governor Richardson has long been a proponent of capital punishment. But he had the courage to face the fact that our system of justice can never be perfect. He signed the bill because his conscience compelled him to do so. This was the “most difficult decision” of his political life, Richardson said, but “the potential for … Execution of an innocent person stands as anathema to our very sensibilities as human beings.” And he’s right.
If the innocence movement has taught us anything it is that our justice system is not perfect. We make mistakes. Without the death penalty, New Mexico can avoid the kind of fatal error that is bound to happen elsewhere — if it hasn’t already.
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