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Friday, February 14, 2003

Anti-Execution Bill Advances in House

By Kate Nash
Journal Capitol Bureau
    SANTA FE A bill to abolish the death penalty in New Mexico is moving forward in the House, although Gov. Bill Richardson still opposes a repeal.
    The measure (HB 377) calls for a maximum penalty of life in prison without the possibility of release or parole for capital felons instead of death.
    Sponsor Rep. Gail Beam, D-Albuquerque, and bill supporters said the death penalty is costly, applied unfairly and has led to the death of innocent people.
    "Another act of violence is not going to change the act of violence that killed our loved ones," said Michelle Giger of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation. Her father was murdered about a decade ago at a Santa Rosa campground.
    Opponents at a hearing lasting several hours Thursday before the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee said the death penalty is an important deterrent to crime and should be kept in place.
    "We believe that New Mexico applies the death penalty fairly," said Jim Foy, president of the New Mexico District Attorney's Association.
    The bill now is headed to the House Judiciary Committee. But should the measure make it all the way to Richardson's desk, it likely won't become law.
    "I haven't looked at the bill but I am opposed to repealing the death penalty," Richardson said. He said he supports the death penalty as long as safeguards, such as DNA testing, are in place.