Why New Mexico Repealed the Death Penalty

New Mexico rarely used this expensive and unfair system:

New Mexico executed one person since 1960, and that occured because the defendent dropped his right to appeal and asked to be executed. No death sentence in NM since 1979 has withstood appeals.

The death penalty is too costly:

New Mexico's revenues have declined since shortly before the death penalty was repealed. Attempting to reinstate the death penalty would waste resources that would be better spent helping all New Mexicans instead of adding back unnecessary expenses to the state budget. According to the NM Public Defender Department, ending the death penalty saved New Mexico several million dollars each year. The costs of the death penalty are borne systemically, impacting the Public Defender Department, the Attorney General's office, every District Attorney office that seeks a death sentence, and the trial and the appellate courts. In December 2004, Supreme Court Justice Bosson estimated that the cost of a death penalty case was six times higher than other murder cases in New Mexico.

Society is safe:

We repealed the death penalty in New Mexico in 2009, replacing it with a sentance of life without the possibility of parole. That made us the last state to implement true life without parole. Our society is safe from murderers who will live the rest of their lives in prison.

Reinstating the death penalty means risking a wrongful conviction:

At least 140 men and women who were convicted and sentenced to death have been released from death row nationwide since 1973. In 1974, New Mexico sentenced four innocent men to death based on false witness testimony and police misconduct. Since NM repealed the death penalty, there have been several cases where it appears that innocent people were executed. The most recent of these is Carlos de Luna, executed in Texas in 1989, whose story is told in the Columbia Human Rights Law review. The suspected killer continues to brag about having killed his victim.

The use of the death penalty is declining in the United States:

The number of executions has dropped every year since 1999. In 2011, there were only 43 executions in the United States, a reduction of almost 60% since 1999. In 2011, there were only 78 new death sentences imposed, down from a high of 315 in 1995, a reduction of 75%.

Other states have also repealed the death penalty:

The tide is turning on the death penalty in the United States. In the last 5 years, 5 states have repealed - New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois and Connecticut. Additionally, several other legislatures have passed or come close to passing repeal bills in recent years, including Montana, Colorado, Kansas, Maryland and New Hampshire. California voters will decide whether to repeal the death penalty in the fall of 2012.

Public opinion supported the 2009 legislation:

A statewide December 2008 poll of likely New Mexican voters showed that nearly two thirds supported replacing the death penalty with life without parole plus restitution to victims' families.

National scientific polls conducted in 2010 show a preference for alternative sentences:

In a 2010 national poll of 500 Police Chiefs, only 1% considered greater use of the death penalty the best way to reduce violence. Voters agreed - 61% of U.S. voters chose alternative sentences over the death penalty as the proper punishment for murder. Only 33% chose the death penalty. The economy clearly was on the public's mind, as fully 65% in the same poll supported replacing the death penalty and using the money saved for crime prevention.


New Mexico Repeal and Murder Victim Family Advocacy Project, October 2012