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Letters to the editor

Death penalty should be swift justice meted out in 14 days

I AGREE COMPLETELY with Gov. (Susana) Martinez’s decision to bring back the death penalty (“Gov. to push for return of New Mexico death penalty,” Aug. 19). However, there should be some changes to the law. As it now stands, being given the death penalty is the same as life without parole, plus allowing a lot of defense attorneys to get rich.

I suggest the following changes be made to the law. First, when the death penalty case has been tried and the person is convicted of a crime that would warrant the death penalty, defense attorneys should not be allowed close to the case. The transcripts of the trial should be given to a three-judge panel selected by the governor. The panel would have 14 days to review the transcripts and, if two of the judges determine that the individual had received a fair trial, then the punishment should be carried out within a 14-day period.

As it stands now, if someone is put on death row, it costs the state more than life in prison without parole and that should not be the case.



Executions merely a mark of society’s need for vengeance

YOUR RECENT editorial (“It’s time to bring back death penalty for cop killers and child murderers,” Aug. 23) echoes Gov. (Susana) Martinez’s call to reinstate the death penalty. I do not intend (to address) the moral aspects of such a penalty, rather the reasoning used to justify its reinstatement.

Governor Martinez was more straightforward than the Journal editorial staff, saying that she was thinking of the recent law enforcement officers killed and the horrific case of Ashlynne Mike when she made her statement. She did not say that it would deter such crimes, as the Journal did, rather that executing the offenders will keep us safe.

The Journal contends that potential murderers will be given pause and rethink what they are planning because they will face the death penalty. I do not think these people consider possible consequences when carrying out their terrible crimes. As for raising the case of Ashlynne Mike, the offender was not subject to New Mexico law – it was on the Navajo Reservation where federal statutes apply for such a crime. Being a former prosecutor, Martinez should be aware of this.

There are two current inmates on death row currently – one has been there for 21 years, the other for 14. It is a slow, drawn-out process, not the eye-for-an-eye concept that, I believe, is behind the call to reinstate the death penalty. Let’s call it what it is – society’s need for vengeance, our collective need to spill the blood of those who commit such crimes; it will not deter them.



Admit it, the death penalty is all about exacting revenge

THERE ARE FIVE ways to execute people in the United States: lethal injection, lethal gas, hanging, firing squad and electrocution.

If the real purpose of the death penalty is to exact revenge – every reputable study concludes that the death penalty is not a deterrent – then we ought to be more imaginative in how we exact our revenge. How about crushing by elephant? Or the murderer is locked in a room with poisonous snakes? Or the Roman classic, crucifixion?

And because the real purpose is revenge, it ought to be televised, so we can all satisfy our bloodlust.



Government does not have the moral right to kill

THE DEATH OF a police officer is tragic. We all are saddened, diminished and made less safe when an officer of the peace dies in the course of keeping the peace. Bless and keep Officer Jose Chavez, Officer (Gregg) “Nigel” Benner, Officer Daniel Webster, and all officers who don a badge and swear an oath so we may sleep well and safe.

Based in part on the tragic deaths of Officers Chavez, Benner and Webster, Gov. (Susana) Martinez has called for the resurrection of the death penalty as the collective will of the citizens of the state of New Mexico (“Gov. to push for return of New Mexico death penalty,” Aug. 19). I respectfully disagree. The right to kill should have no part of the rightful authority of the government. Granting government the right to kill is contrary to morality and it is contrary to the sound principles of limited government.

Morality is personal, but also universal. Saints, sinners and atheists all agree that “thou shalt not kill.” Government is constituted of mortal beings, none of whom can claim the ability to judge unerringly. Such judgment is reserved to a greater power. Mortal beings should not deign to judge whether to take a life under any circumstances. To borrow a fitting phrase from Abraham Lincoln, “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

The principles of limited government are less elevated, but more tangible to our everyday lives. Government should have as localized and limited powers as possible so the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness may be preserved. It is starkly inconsistent with the principle of limited government to grant the government – any government – the authority to exercise the ultimate judgment of imposing a sentence of death, thereby denying the right to life.

Some take the view that government – any government – is inherently incompetent or corrupt. I do not share this bleak view, but government is surely fallible. Be it incompetent, corrupt or merely fallible, any of these conditions means that government can screw up. And if government screws up in a death penalty case, an innocent dies. I cannot abide this, and I cannot condone this done in my name as a constituent citizen of the state of New Mexico.



Martinez simply seeks to deflect attention from budget

GOV. (SUSANA) MARTINEZ’s call to revive the death penalty is a textbook political ploy. …

When conditions become critical, Martinez’s answer is to deflect attention from the problem – state budget way out of synch with revenue – by demonizing marginalized and relatively powerless members of our society. Her call to resurrect the ineffective, error-prone and dehumanizing practice of killing a small number of individuals is a perfect example of the technique.

She has seized on two high-profile examples of crime and says that her experience as a prosecutor compels her to demand death for the perpetrators. This call to stir up emotions has diverted our headlines from the real problems of governance and the consequences of her failing economic policy.

The result will be borne by us all, but the brunt of the harm will be done to those least able to dodge the meat ax – mostly the poor, school kids, those who suffer chronic illness, the infirm and the dependent of all kinds. Shame on us if we fall for it.



Capital punishment prone to expensive mistakes

GOV. SUSANA MARTINEZ’s proposal to bring the death penalty back to New Mexico plays to New Mexicans’ understandable rage at the murders of law enforcement officials and children, but it is thoroughly wrong.

According to the latest figure from the Death Penalty Information Center, 156 condemned prisoners have been exonerated since executions resumed in the U.S. in 1977. This does not count the prisoners with credible claims of innocence who were actually executed, such as Texas’s Carlos DeLuna, Leonel Herrera and Cameron Willingham.

Capital punishment, prone to terrible mistakes, is also a very expensive luxury in any jurisdiction. The lavish outlays of tax money begin at the pre-trial level, as a capital trial involves more pre-trial motions and elaborate procedures for jury selection that are necessary in no other criminal proceeding.

Four months before he died, U.S. Supreme Court Justice (Antonin) Scalia said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the Supreme Court found the death penalty unconstitutional in a speech at Rhodes College. He repeated those remarks at an appearance at the University of Minnesota Law School on Oct. 20, 2015, according to the Associated Press.

If New Mexico restores capital punishment, sentencing even one prisoner to death will waste tax money our state can ill afford in an effort which Justice Scalia, a leading proponent of the death penalty, repeatedly suggested will be futile.



Executions won’t solve state’s many social issues

GOV. (SUSANA) MARTINEZ wants to introduce legislation to reinstate the death penalty in New Mexico. However, capital punishment has not been shown to be a deterrent to the kinds of crimes warranting the death penalty.

While executing high-profile offenders such as cop killers might assuage public anger at these heinous actors, it will not solve the social issues that create so many dysfunctional New Mexicans who end up committing these horrible crimes. It’s long past time that we plugged the entrance to the career violent criminal pipeline rather than trying to play “whack a mole” with the exit pipeline.


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