Some good news from New Mexico:
Gov. Bill Richardson, who has supported capital punishment, signed legislation to repeal New Mexico’s death penalty, calling it the “most difficult decision in my political life.”
The new law replaces lethal injection with a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The repeal takes effect on July 1, and applies only to crimes committed after that date.
“Regardless of my personal opinion about the death penalty, I do not have confidence in the criminal justice system as it currently operates to be the final arbiter when it comes to who lives and who dies for their crime,” Richardson said.
Europe’s human rights watchdog on Thursday hailed the decision as “a victory for civilization.” The American Civil Liberties Union called it “a historic step and a clear sign that the United States continues to make significant progress toward eradicating capital punishment once and for all.”
But the New Mexico Sheriffs’ and Police Association opposed repeal, 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.
One of the things I have never understood is the seeming breakdown on opposition to and support for the death penalty. I have never figured out why conservatives, the people who flip out about zoning boards and if their taxes are raised 3% and who shout limited government until they are blue in the face have absolutely zero problem with the government taking that which is most precious- someone’s life. All this posturing about the “ability to tax is the ability to destroy” just seems silly when you turn a blind eye to the government executing people.
And I’m not saying that I don’t have strong opinions about what should be done to certain people. There was a picture of Charles Manson released the other day, and it makes me sick that that murderous cretin has spent the last four decades living relatively comfortably (although I still think existence in modern prisons is hell). I understand the desire for a death penalty, but I just can’t support it when we know that there are prosecutors who act in bad faith, we know there are police who perjure themselves, we know there are witnesses who make mistakes, we know that confessions are coerced, we know that there are two systems of justice in place for the rich and the poor, and we know that dozens of people on death row have been released after it has been determined they were innocent. With all that information, I simply don’t understand how anyone could support the death penalty.