Monday morning Big Bill (as we all know him) will have on his desk legislation to repeal our death penalty law. Many of us have fought for this repeal for years. The specific impetus came from four bikers, tried and convicted of murder who sat on our death row for a couple of years before a Federal informant “found God” and confessed that it was he who had killed the young female victim. Since then, the national “Innocence Project” has been instrumental in proving the actual innocence of numerous (well over 100) death row residents. Our judicial system may well be the best in the world, but it’s not perfect. When the death penalty is imposed within this imperfect system, there is no second chance, no recourse, no way to make things right. There is also a moral issue for me. Is it “right” for our State to kill someone for killing someone? I can’t reconcile it. Finally, this very poor State cannot afford a death penalty. The cost of defending a death penalty charge is astronomical, and since the vast majority of those charged with crimes to which the death penalty applies are the minorities and the poor, it is the State’s Constitutional obligation to provide a defense. That defense: paying the highly qualified (but poorly paid) capitol attorneys, providing investigators, psychologists, and other experts is beyond our means. Just a note on paying the lawyers — they are paid an hourly fee that is considerably less than that paid to the civil attorneys who handle State Risk Management cases. They’re just about money.
The Governor is asking for public input saying he considers this a moral issue, rather than one of numbers and is soliciting opinion from victims’ families, law enforcement, the clergy, and us regular citizens. I hope New Mexico joins the other fifteen states that have abolished the death penalty, and then, we have to work on our Federal Government which imposes the death penalty for more than 90 crimes.
Big Bill has until Wednesday night to do the right thing. Just do it!