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Senator Asks For 'Mercy' For Vet

By Jeremy Hunt
Journal Staff Writer
    Sen. Pete Domenici joined in the calls for Marine Elton John Richard II to be pardoned for the 2004 death of Daniel Romero.
    "I do not condone all his actions, but I've come to believe that sending him to jail would be unjust," Domenici said in a statement Friday.
    Bernalillo County District Judge Albert "Pat" Murdoch sentenced Richard to two years in prison for fatally shooting Romero, who was trying to steal Richard's Ford Bronco from in front of his house.
    Gov. Bill Richardson asked Thursday for Murdoch to reconsider Richard's sentence, but Murdoch said he would not.
    A spokesman for Richardson said the governor would consider a request for clemency, but no one has made such a request.
    New Mexico law gives pardoning authority solely to the governor. It applies to crimes committed under state law but not federal or municipal laws.
    For those still incarcerated, executive clemency can take the form of pardon, commutation of sentence, conditional release or reprieve.
    A full pardon restores rights of citizenship enjoyed prior to conviction, including the right to bear arms.
    Commutation of a sentence is a reduction in punishment imposed by the court and is normally considered "only in cases of unusual meritorious service," such as saving the life of a Corrections Department member or inmate, according to guidelines provided by the Governor's Office.
    A conditional release is a form of clemency in which an inmate is released from incarceration and subject to parole conditions.
    The final form of clemency is a reprieve— postponement of punishment extended to give a prisoner an opportunity to seek an improved sentence.
    "I've studied the story of this terrible situation, and I told the governor I thought if the right procedures are followed that he should have mercy on this former Marine," Domenici said.
    Legal experts say deadly force can only be used if "absolutely necessary."
    "You can only use deadly force if you have a reasonable belief that imminent, deadly force is about to be used on you," UNM law professor Norman Bay said. "If you can defuse the situation without using deadly force, you may not use deadly force."