N.M. Governor Announces Push to Revive Death Penalty

For the professional edge in your day-to-day practice, rely on the most timely, objective reporting on significant developments, trends, and emerging patterns in criminal law today—Criminal Law...

By Lance J. Rogers

Aug. 30 — It's time to put capital punishment back on the books in the “Land of Enchantment,” particularly for cop-killers and those convicted of murdering children, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) announced Aug. 17.

The announcement came less than a week after a New Mexico police officer was gunned down in Hatch, N.M., while making a traffic stop.

“A society that fails to adequately protect and defend those who protect all of us is a society that will be undone and unsafe,” Martinez said in remarks e-mailed to Bloomberg BNA.

New Mexico repealed the death penalty in 2009.

Monsters Among Us

“People need to ask themselves, if the man who ambushed and killed five police officers in Dallas had lived, would he deserve the ultimate penalty?” Martinez asked.

“How about the heartless violent criminals who killed Officer Jose Chavez in Hatch and left his children without their brave and selfless dad? Do they deserve the ultimate penalty? Absolutely,” Martinez added.

Martinez said she felt the same way about those who sexually abuse and murder young children, referencing the notorious killing of Ashlynne Mike, a Navajo fifth-grader who was kidnapped and sexually assaulted before she was killed in May.

“Does the monster who killed her deserve the ultimate punishment?” Martinez said. “Yes—absolutely.”

The governor is expected to pursue this initiative as part of her legislative agenda in January.

Pushback From Pro-Death Forces

Although the death penalty is still legal in 30 states, there is a growing movement to abolish it. In just the past 10 years, seven states have abolished capital punishment and the governors of Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Pennsylvania have temporarily halted executions in those states.

Several weeks ago, the Delaware Supreme Court struck down its death penalty scheme, saying it gives judges too much discretion to make the actual findings required to impose death (99 CrL 603, 8/10/16).

Nonetheless, proponents of capital punishment are pushing back and have put pro-death penalty initiatives on the ballot in three states (99 CrL 541, 7/20/16).

Nebraska voters, in the Nebraska Death Penalty Repeal Referendum, will decide whether they want to restore capital punishment, just 18 months after their Legislature narrowly voted to replace the death penalty with life without parole.

Californians will choose from two competing initiatives. One would replace all death sentences with life without parole, whereas the other would not only reiterate the state's commitment to the death penalty but would also speed up the execution process.

A referendum in Oklahoma invites voters to strengthen their commitment to capital punishment by amending the state constitution to clarify that it isn't cruel and unusual.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lance J. Rogers in Washington at lrogers@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: C. Reilly Larson at rlarson@bna.com

For More Information

California Proposition 62 is available at http://src.bna.com/gR4.

California Proposition 66 is available at http://src.bna.com/gR8.

Nebraska's “Death Penalty Repeal Referendum” is available at http://src.bna.com/gRw.

Oklahoma's State Question 776 is available at http://src.bna.com/gVL.

Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.