Today I was happy to read that Governor Bill Richardson has signed a bill aboloshing the death penalty in New Mexico.
I realize that this was a very tough decision for him to make… Richardson does believe that the death penalty- in rare cases- is just punishment for especially heinous crimes.
His statement reads, in part:
Regardless of my personal opinion about the death penalty, I do not have the 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.
The governor’s signing of the bill, as one would expect, was met with some criticism.
The New Mexico Sheriffs’ and Police Association (among others), opposes the bill.
They have issued a statement claiming that the state’s law enforcement officers are now in more danger as a result of the repeal.
The Association would have a point if there was any data whatsoever to show that the death penalty actually serves as a deterrent to crime.
In fact, statistics show states that do not have the death penalty actually have lower murder rates than states that do. In 2007, non-death penalty states had murder rates that were 42% lower than states that carry out the punishment.
That ain’t a small number… and certainly not an insignificant one.
People who commit horrific crimes are typically not thinking about the potential consequences of their actions.
Generally speaking, would-be criminals do not walk around saying to themselves…
Gee, I’d really like to rape and murder that kid over there… and I sure would do it too… if it weren’t for that stupid lethal injection I’d probably get.
It just doesn’t happen that way… and available data pretty much proves it.
The death penalty is not a punishment that serves the interest of justice.
On the contrary, it serves the interest of revenge.
It’s not difficult to understand why families of victims would prefer blood… death… an eye for an eye…
Human emotion, however, especially in such highly-charged circumstances, does not equate to justice served.
Our justice system- or court system, as I like to call it (in my opinion, it is sickeningly short on justice)- is imperfect, just like the humans who run it.
As long as there is a chance that even one single person could be killed for a crime he or she did not commit… as long as there is classism and racism running rampant in our society…
The only responsible action, in the interest of justice- true justice– is to repeal the death penalty.
New Mexico, while just one state, has done a great thing.
Let’s hope other states follow suit.