New Mexico today abolished the death penalty, so now there are only 35 states in the U.S. that have the death penalty. The death penalty has increasingly become a regional policy that is carried out mostly in the South where 80 percent of executions take place. Even in areas of Western Texas near New Mexico, the death penalty is used much less than in Eastern Texas where there is more cultural influence from the South.
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.
“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,” Mr. Richardson said at a news conference in the Capitol.
The governor, a Democrat, faced a deadline of midnight for making a decision on the bill that lawmakers sent him last week.
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.
New Mexico has executed only one person since 1960, Terry Clark, a child killer, in 2001.
Two men are currently on death row, Robert Fry of Farmington and Timothy Allen of Bloomfield. Their sentences are not affected by the new law.