NEW VOICES: Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Ready to Close Door on New Mexico's Death Penalty

In March of this year, New Mexico repealed the death penalty, becoming the fifteenth state to abolish the practice. The law, however, is not retroactive, and does not affect two inmates currently on death row as well as any defendant sentenced to death for crimes committed before the law was to take effect in July 2009. One of the legislators who voted to end the death penalty, partly because of its high costs, was Republican gubernatorial candidate Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, who also voted to repeal the death penalty in 2007. Arnold-Jones recently said she “would consider commuting sentences of the two men on death row and any others who may join them.” She continued, “[T]he biggest reason that I couldn’t sustain the death penalty any longer is it’s not working. It is fraught with so many issues, so much cost and it bogs down our system. It’s just not working.“

Other candidates for governor also supported repeal of the death penalty. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, the only Democratic candidate so far, backed the repeal bill earlier this year. Sen. Michael Sanchez, another possible gubernatorial candidate, championed the bill in the Senate. The present governor, Bill Richardson, has so far declined to commute the existing death sentences after signing the abolition bill.

(D. Maass, “Uncertain Fates: NM’s next governor could commute death sentences,” Santa Fe Reporter, Sept. 23, 2009). See New Voices and Recent Legislation.