New Mexico Repeals Death Penalty — Kansas and Montana May Follow Suit

180px-singchairThe New Mexico Legislature voted 24-18 to repeal the death penalty and replaced it with life without parole. Two other states — Kansas and Montana — may follow suit this month.

The vote is the latest state to move away from the death penalty. The United States is one of the few Western nations still imposing the death penalty and citizens in various states are looking at repeals.

That leaves 35 states with capital punishment. If Kansas and Montana repeal the death penalty this month, it could spark a trend that could easily see half of the United States stand against capitol punishment. Kansas will debate the measure today.

There are currently two people on death row in New Mexico, which has only executed one man in the past 49 years, a convicted child killer named Terry Clark in 2001.

For the full story, click here.

37 thoughts on “New Mexico Repeals Death Penalty — Kansas and Montana May Follow Suit”

  1. FFLeo:

    I have mixed feelings on the issue. On the one hand, the sanction is undoubtedly a primary deterrent though its secondary effects seem less than hoped for as a policy matter . The old story of the pickpockets plying their trade before the gallows as other pickpockets are hanged come to mind. But after all, the effectiveness as a primary deterrent is the reason for the sanction in the first place.

    On the other hand, it has been applied capriciously and arbitrarily in the past, and even today, I question the wisdom of letting a jury of Bill O’Reilly/Glen Beck watchers decide the fate of another human being. I also do not have great confidence in the ability of DNA or other scientific evidence to conclusively affix guilt, especially so when the punishment is irreversible. I read today where the Virginia Division of Forensics has been accused of “overstating” its findings in 82 felony cases. Not a good track record on accuracy if you ask me.

    On balance, I would accept the death penalty for heinous crimes with the great likelihood of recidivism when and if we find a rational way to establish guilt with much more certainty than exists today.

  2. Clint wrote:

    “It seems to me that because a person takes another human life, that person has forfeited the right to have his/her own from a legal standpoint.”

    Clint, when a person “…takes another human life…”, it is a crime against the state or city. It is to that state or city that the killer must answer. Your statement that “…that person has forfeited the right…” is based on a pre-acceptance of capital punishment as either a deterrent (fully discreditted), pure revenge (is that who we want to be?) or economics (the lamest of reasons) rather than logic. There is no logical or human behavioral reason a killer automatically forfeits a right to live because he/she caused a death. That can, and in many US juristictions has been, written into laws, but it isn’t a requirement of nature or sound reasoning. We have the choice of how our society deals with these issues. I prefer we refrain from becoming what we despise.

  3. FFLEO,

    I agree with what other people who oppose the death penalty said above. Families of people who have been murdered differ on how they feel about the death penalty. Even families who initally believed the death penalty would bring closure have found, afterwords, that it did not.

    You know I don’t believe anyone will go to the lake of fire for their crime. I can only echo the arguments made above and add one thing. My own feeling is that violence has to stop somewhere. If the state takes life then the state creates a climate where violence is acceptable. The only way to look at this is long term, in my opinion. What will it take for our society as a whole, to be less violent so that many fewer people are harmed/killed? That has to be our goal as a society. We cannot achieve that while committing state sponsored murder. We can’t bring anyone back, but we can try to make a climate where this doesn’t keep happening. We are such a violent society. To become less violent we must stop being violent.

  4. I am a strong proponent for the death penalty when the evidence is unequivocal—far beyond a reasonable doubt—that a human has murdered another human with unquestionable malice aforethought (I am not including justifiable homicide etc., but I am referring to the most heinous of murders).

    I would not want anyone to experience the pain of losing a close family member to a serial murderer. The pain, agony, and the thoughts of what the victim suffered are frequent occurrences. Think of what you might want for a killer who murdered at least 10 young women—many in their teens—but before killing them, they were sexually tortured in the most heinous of ways imaginable. His MO included gluing their eyes shut with Superglue, and binding/gagging them with duct tape while he transported them in the trunk of his car for long distances before he murdered them and dumped their bodies. Two of the bodies were never found and some of those that were found were in advanced stages of decomposition.

    I simply ask that those of you who oppose the death penalty to consider what it *might be like* to lose a relative or someone close to you to the cruelest of murderers and *think* why society should support him/her for as long as that person lives in prison. A sociopathic killer does not suffer in prison because he has no conscience, everything is about him, and he will conform to what is required to survive. Besides, he has plenty of free time in prison to relive the torture and killing that so gratified him and that will continue to please him at societies’ expense of room, board, and protection.

    Furthermore, if you *believe* that some anthropomorphic ‘god’ is going to mete out justice sometime during eternity, I ask that you instead *think and reason* for justice here and now for the murdered victims and their families instead of having *faith* in some unforeseen justice from an apparitional ‘man’ no one has ever seen or heard from other than in their mind’s eye or from voices in their heads.

  5. Ken –

    I think the idea of a “bright line” is a good one. In practice it’d have to be refined because you’ll get a lot of nit-picky arguments about, for example, police in pursuit of armed suspects, but as a principle of due process, it’s a good approach.

  6. Clint –

    I disagree with its application–mistakes could happen so never do it.

    I didn’t say that; I said uncorrectable mistakes happen so don’t do it.

    because a person takes another human life, that person has forfeited the right to have his/her own from a legal standpoint

    That argument is premised on the assumption of guilt, so it’s not truly a rebuttal to an argument bases on the undeniable existence of wrongful convictions.

    I hope the phrase “from a legal standpoint” isn’t meant to mean that “in the eyes of the law, the person is guilty, so they’ve lost their right to life” as that invites the addendum “so if we execute someone and later find out they were innocent, hey :shrug: that’s the way it goes.”

  7. The finality of the death penalty is a pretty powerful argument against it. My own personal belief is that the State should not have the authority to kill its own citizens. Once we allow this authority to the State, we are simply negotiating over what circumstances should allow it. Such a system is inherently open to abuse. If the principle is established that the State does not have the authority to kill its citizens, there is no confusion, second guessing or potential for abuse.

  8. Clint:

    “Do you feel as if there is any case in which a person, as a ruling of the civil government, should die for his crimes?”

    Treason and only treason.

    The felon’s noose.

  9. But, I believe also that the death penalty as a deterrent to others is at best a morally irrational motivation for a society.

  10. LarryE,

    “One of my big objections to the death penalty is its finality: You can’t correct mistakes.”

    I think that is one of the better lines of reasoning. Though I disagree with its application–mistakes could happen so never do it. It seems to me that because a person takes another human life, that person has forfeited the right to have his/her own from a legal standpoint. A weak example could be the convicted pedophile. Because of his abuse of children, he has forfeited the right to work closely with them.

  11. Do you feel as if there is any case in which a person, as a ruling of the civil government, should die for his crimes?

    Clint, I’d like to offer my own answer, which begins by echoing RC’s direct “No.”

    For my part, though, while I fully agree that the death penalty is not a deterrent, I don’t push that argument as much as RC does. It’s useful to counter those who argue it does deter, but as MikeA notes, even if it was a deterrent, it would still be wrong. (And from a philosophical argument perspective, it has the weakness of too easily being mashed into opposition to any punishment for any crime because after all, the crime still occurs so the punishment fails as a deterrent.)

    One of my big objections to the death penalty is its finality: You can’t correct mistakes. Yes, such mistakes, such miscarriages of justice, can occur just as easily with a “life without parole” sentence or any other sentence, for that matter. But in those cases, if error is discovered or proved, the mistake can be changed. Not really “rectified” in a philosophical sense because the harm already done to the innocent accused can’t really be undone, but additional harm can be prevented. In the case of the death penalty, the maximum harm has already been done; any harm that could have prevented has already been inflicted.

    My other big objection is its immorality and inherent illogic. Again, it’s something MikeA touched on, but is summarized for me in a slogan that I think originated with the Fellowship of Reconciliation (but which at least one source suggests comes from Norman Mailer): Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong?

  12. Mike,

    I understand your reasoning but from a Christian standpoint it seems as though God is the one who has prescribed the death penalty in some cases:

    Gen 9:6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

    Rom 13:3-4 “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”

    It is explicit in Scripture though that this level of “vengeance” is not to be done on the individual level, only by the civil authorities.

  13. Clint, I agree with rcampbell, but would like to add the following comments regarding my own opposition to the death penalty:

    1. The taking of a life is a purely vindictive act, and despite its emotional appeal to many, an act of mob vengeance denigrates the inherent value of human life and impairs the social commitment to the ideals of justice.

    2. The imposition of the death penalty historically has been characterized by ethnic, racial and religious prejudice.

    3. Even were the death penalty proven to be a deterrent, it is morally reprehensible to take one person’s life for the purpose of discouraging another person from committing a similar act.

    4. There is abundant evidence that the moral and human failings to which we all are subject have resulted in the frequent convictions of innocent persons.

    5. From a purely Christian standpoint, the execution of a human being assumes a role exclusively within the province of God by denying the possibility of redemption and salvation for the condemned individual.

  14. Don’t belittle retribution, rcampbell. The last thing you want is for society to lose confidence in the system’s ability to render just outcomes. We’re human beings and justice–when rendered fairly and proportionately under the law–is an important ideal that needs to be placated. That are myriad other legitimate reasons you can hate on the death penalty, but retribution is an important penological goal.

  15. Clint

    The above could be perceived as being perhaps too curt. It was not my intention to be curt. It was meant simply to be catagorical and definitive. Capital punishment has failed as a deterrent. It also fails religious and ethical precepts and it cannot assure an innocent person will not die for the crime of another.

  16. rcambell,

    Do you feel as if there is any case in which a person, as a ruling of the civil government, should die for his crimes?

  17. Kudos to the wisdom of the New Mexico legislature!!

    If the death penalty were an effective deterrent it would deter murders. Since murders still occur, the death penalty does not deter them. Therefore it is not a deterrent. What is it, then, one might ask? It’s state-sponsored revenge killing by another name.

    A guy I know justifies his support of capital punishmnt on the grounds that it’s cheaper to kill the offender than to house and feed him/her for life. In his case, his support is neither moral nor even political, it’s the most callous and shallow reasoning possible in dealing with a human life—economic. Neither the political, religious nor economic justifications come to grips with the potential for the state to kill even one innocent person.

    On a different thread from yesterday (bunnies), Buddha opined quite well about how some dogmatic, fundamentalist and politically rather than religiously motivated people ignore their own prophets’ teachings (i.e. “Vengence is mine…”; “Islam is a religion of peace”, etc.) and support such issues as state-sponsored revenge killing in direct contradiction to those teachings and still claim adherence to their faith.

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