March 18, 2009 · Gov. Bill Richardson signed legislation Wednesday repealing New Mexico's death penalty, making it the second state to ban executions since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
Richardson, a Democrat who formerly supported capital punishment, said signing the bill was the "most difficult decision" of his political life.
"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," Richardson told a news conference in the state Capitol.
The most severe punishment now will be a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
By signing the measure, New Mexico joins 14 other states that do not impose capital punishment. New Jersey, in 2007, was the first and only other state to outlaw capital punishment since its reinstatement by the Supreme Court.
New Mexico has executed one person since 1960, child killer Terry Clark in 2001. The sentences of two men currently on death row will not be affected by the new law.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and former President Jimmy Carter were among those who urged Richardson to sign the bill.
The New Mexico Sheriffs' and Police Association opposed repealing the death penalty, saying capital punishment deters violence against police officers, jailers and prison guards. District attorneys also opposed the legislation, arguing that the death penalty was a useful prosecutorial tool.
New Mexico was one of several states considering repealing the death penalty this year. In Kansas, a bill failed to clear the Senate this week.
Also you may be able to find audio on morning news NPR.org for March 19th about the signing. The number of calls for the ban were astounding!