Tuesday, March 24, 2009

More developments on the death penalty

Last week, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico signed HR 285 to abolish the death penalty in that state. Here are two more interesting developments in New Mexico, and one worldwide.

First, the Death Penalty Info Center has the details from a cost assessment that was prepared before New Mexico's legislature voted on HR 285. Despite the tiny but stubborn segment of the populace that still believes executing prisoners is cheaper than condemning them to life in prison, the report's unambiguous conclusions join the chorus of received wisdom that indicates that, in fact, implementing the death penalty is hugely expensive.

Citing just one part of the death penalty process, jury selection, the report noted, "Jury selection is a long, arduous process that potentially touches on the constitutional and religious rights of New Mexicans, and costs at least four times as much as a non-death first-degree murder case."
Secondly, Sentencing Law and Policy relays a news story about a New Mexico Sheriff looking into reinstating the death penalty by putting a "reverse referendum" on the ballot that would put the issue to the voters.
Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White is looking into the possibility of petitioning to put the repeal of New Mexico's death penalty before the voters.

White said Thursday he's looking at a "reverse referendum" after the 2009 Legislature passed and Gov. Bill Richardson signed a measure that replaces lethal injection with life in prison without possibility of parole. The new law will apply to crimes committed as of July 1. "I think there's a lot of support out there" for an effort to reinstate the death penalty, the sheriff said.
That didn't take long.

Finally, Amnesty International released its annual report on capital punishment around the world. From the report:
Europe and Central Asia is now virtually a death penalty free zone following the abolition of the death penalty in Uzbekistan for all crimes. There is just one country left — Belarus — that still carries out executions.

In the Americas, only one state — the United States — consistently executes. However, even the USA moved away from the death penalty in 2008. This year, the smallest number of executions since 1995 was reported in the USA.
Read Amnesty's full report here.

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