Governor wants death penalty reinstated - Albuquerque Journal

Governor wants death penalty reinstated

SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez said Tuesday that she will add a proposal to reinstate New Mexico’s death penalty for certain violent crimes to the agenda of a special legislative session that could be called as soon as next week.

The capital punishment announcement drew immediate criticism from the state’s Roman Catholic bishops and other opponents of capital punishment, with majority Senate Democrats calling the governor’s announcement an “irresponsible distraction” from the state’s budget crisis.

However, proponents of bringing back the death penalty applauded it as timely and needed after a spate of high-profile recent crimes sent shock waves through the state.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez
MARTINEZ: Murderers of police, children targeted

Debate over the death penalty – which was abolished in New Mexico in 2009 and replaced with life in prison without the possibility of parole – has reignited in recent weeks after the death of 10-year-old Victoria Martens of Albuquerque, who police say was drugged, raped and killed by three adults, including her mother, and the killings of police officers in Hatch and Alamogordo earlier this year, and of a Rio Rancho and an Albuquerque police officer last year.

Martinez, a former prosecutor, said Tuesday that she would push for the death penalty to be available to prosecutors in cases where individuals have been convicted of killing children, law enforcement officers or corrections officers.

“These are the heroes who protect us, and our most vulnerable who should have had their whole lives ahead of them,” Martinez said in a statement. “Cop killers and child murderers deserve the ultimate punishment. If you kill an officer, you deserve the death penalty. If you kill a child, you deserve the death penalty.”

“It’s time we say enough is enough,” the two-term Republican governor added.

In addition to the death penalty, Martinez also will add a proposal to expand the state’s “three strikes” law for violent felonies to the agenda of the special session, which will focus on plugging a $589 million state budget shortfall for the current and just-ended fiscal years.

In response to the governor’s announcement, Archbishop of Santa Fe John C. Wester called Martinez’s proposal to reinstate the death penalty a “red herring” that will distract lawmakers from the task of finding revenue to pay for needed programs that will benefit children.

“We need to ask how can we help our children more, and we think that’s where the real issue is,” Wester said during a news conference in Albuquerque. “It appears to me to be politically motivated rather than a look at the issues.”

Wester added that Pope Francis has called for a worldwide end to capital punishment, saying, “It is not the state’s prerogative to take a life.”

“The death penalty does not end violence,” Wester also said. “Violence does not end violence.”

Martinez’s decision to add a proposal to reinstate the death penalty for those convicted of killing law enforcement officers and children could increase political tension during the special session.

All 112 legislative seats are up for election this year, and control of both legislative chambers is at stake. Addressing the emotionally charged issue during the special session could force lawmakers to vote just weeks before the Nov. 8 election.

The death penalty bill will be sponsored by GOP Reps. Monica Youngblood of Albuquerque and Andy Nuñez of Hatch. Nuñez voted in favor of repealing the death penalty in 2009.

Youngblood, whose district encompasses the Albuquerque elementary school that Victoria Martens attended, told the Journal she’s heard an outpouring from constituents in favor of bringing back the death penalty.

“They want to see that those who commit horrific crimes against children and those who ambush police officers … pay the ultimate penalty,” Youngblood said.

She also insisted the death penalty push was not driven by revenge or blood lust, saying, “This isn’t knee-jerk; this is addressing a problem we’ve had for multiple years now.”

However, Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, called Martinez’s announcement irresponsible, arguing that new death row cases would lead to increased court costs for taxpayers at a time of plummeting state revenues.

He also pointed out that New Mexico could not reimpose the death penalty retroactively, meaning that anyone convicted in connection with the high-profile recent crimes would not be eligible to be put to death.

“If the vote were to kill Victoria Martens’ killers, I think we could get in and out (of a special session) in a day, but that’s not the vote,” Maestas told the Journal .

Nationally, there’s been a movement away from the death penalty in recent years. Nineteen states, including New Mexico, currently do not have death penalty laws on their books, and four of those states – Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland and Nebraska – have abolished capital punishment in the past five years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Before abolishing the death penalty, New Mexico had executed just one inmate since 1960. That happened in 2001, when Terry Clark received a lethal injection after being convicted of raping and killing Dena Lynn Gore, a 9-year-old Artesia girl.

Journal staff writer Olivier Uyttebrouck contributed to this report.

Home » Journal North » Journal North Recent News » Governor wants death penalty reinstated


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
New Mexico inks trust land leases for massive wind ...
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico's public land commissioner on ... New Mexico's public land commissioner on Monday signed nearly a dozen leases that will clear the way for a major renewable energy developer to ...
2
Details emerge in Sunday shootings after more video is ...
ABQnews Seeker
Police say a man who is ... Police say a man who is suspected of killing his wife may have killed himself. They initially had charged the couple's son in the ...
3
Retired teachers can now return to classroom, keep retirement
ABQnews Seeker
Enticing retired teachers to come back ... Enticing retired teachers to come back may be an answer to New Mexico's teacher shortages — or at least that's what lawmakers hope with ...
4
Official: Upgrades urged at Amtrak crash site, but no ...
ABQnews Seeker
The chief elected official in the ... The chief elected official in the Missouri county where an Amtrak train slammed into a dump truck said Tuesday that residents and county leaders ...
5
Albuquerque redistricting committee to take final vote
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque's citizen redistricting committee is slated ... Albuquerque's citizen redistricting committee is slated to take its final vote Wednesday, deciding what it thinks is the best way to reshape the city's ...
6
Teen charged in shooting threat at Edgewood school
ABQnews Seeker
A 17-year-old allegedly threatened to shoot ... A 17-year-old allegedly threatened to shoot up a school earlier this month in Edgewood. State Police spokeswoman Candace Hopkins said Emma Haviland, of Edgewood, ...
7
TOP OF MIND: What do you think of the ...
ABQnews Seeker
Click here to tell us: ... Click here to tell us: What do you think of the governor's opposition to bringing migrants to N.M. at this time? Responses must ...
8
APD creates unit to target road rage, aggressive driving
ABQnews Seeker
with a way for the public ... with a way for the public to submit evidence — as detectives search for the shooters in two recent road-rage incidents on Interstate 40. ...
9
Woman charged in 2020 ABQ homicide
ABQnews Seeker
Detectives arrested a woman for her ... Detectives arrested a woman for her alleged role in the fatal shooting of a man in 2020 outside an apartment complex on West Central. ...