August 17, 2016

Martinez: Reinstate the death penalty

Andy Lyman

Gov. Susana Martinez wants to roll back the clock on the death penalty repeal.

Gov. Susana Martinez during her State of the State Address in 2016. Photo Credit: Andy Lyman.

Andy Lyman

Gov. Susana Martinez during her State of the State Address in 2016. Photo Credit: Andy Lyman.

KVIA reported Martinez wants to reinstate the controversial punishment in response to the killing of police officers in recent years.

A police officer was killed during a traffic stop last week in Hatch. The accused killer was wanted for murder in Ohio.

New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009, after more than a decade of efforts.

“Reinstating the death penalty would be short-sighted and very costly in the long run. Instead, providing officers with what they need would not only honor those lost in senseless tragedies but would increase public safety,” said Gail Chasey, the state representative who pushed for the repeal.

The move to reinstate the death penalty comes even as the amount of executions in the United States falls to lows not seen since the early 1990s.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, states have executed just 15 people this year, compared to a high of 98 in 1999. Only six of those on death row are scheduled to be executed through the rest of the year; all are in Texas.

New Mexico executed just one person since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court made it legal again.

This comes after some high profile releases of those found falsely convicted as well as states’ struggles to obtain the drugs necessary for lethal injections. Utah even passed a law to allow firing squads.

NM Political Report asked Wednesday evening how New Mexico would obtain the drugs and why Martinez chose now to bring up the issue. If they give us a response, we will add it here.

The Death Policy Information Center lists 156 people who were on death row who were exonerated since 1973. These include those who had the crimes that placed them on death row dismissed, those who were acquitted of all charges related to the crime that placed them on death row and those who were granted a pardon because of proof of innocence.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico blasted Martinez for bringing up the issue.

“It is disappointing that the governor is focusing her energy on moving New Mexico backwards instead of forwards,” ACLU-NM executive director Peter Simonson said. “Our legislature already replaced the death penalty with the more effective alternative of permanent imprisonment because the death penalty is a broken and costly system.

“We know that the death penalty is plagued with racial disparities and is too often used to execute innocent people and people with serious mental disabilities and illnesses,” he continued. “At a moment when states are increasingly moving away from the death penalty, the governor proposes to return us to a time when we wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on this antiquated, inhumane, and unjust practice.”

Update (10:15 p.m.): Added quote by Gail Chasey.

Update (8/18, 10:00 a.m.): The Democratic Party of New Mexico, which sent Chasey’s quote, noted a mistake in the statement they sent to media. We corrected this here.