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Death Penalty Reinstatement Dies in Committee

By Claus Whiteacre

Last night the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee voted 3-2 along party lines to table two measures intended to reinstate the death penalty in New Mexico.

Both House Bill 371 and House Joint Resolution 6 were sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kintigh (R-Roswell).

In a somewhat strange introduction of his bills before the committee, Rep. Kintigh spoke about a double murder that occurred shortly before he was to retire from the FBI and then he worked on for six years.

When committee chair Rep. Gail Chasey (D-Albuquerque) asked who was there to support the bills, not a single hand went up from the two-dozen or so attendees.

Several individuals expressed opposition to the measures including Allen Sanchez, spokesman for the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Jeff Buckels from the Public Defenders Department. The debate produced some striking statements about the death penalty, such as this from Rep. Moe Maestas (D-Albuquerque):

“Should a free society grant the government the authority to kill a human being? For me the answer is no.”

Rep. Chasey, who sponsored the 2009 bill that repealed the death penalty, said:

“One thing that has not been brought up, is the inherent racism with the death penalty. The death penalty is most often sought when the victims are white.”

Gov. Susana Martinez had made reinstating the death penalty a major promise during her campaign for governor. Last night’s debate appears to have ended the possibility that it will happen during this year’s session.

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