Nothing left to lose

NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE…. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s (D) long and impressive career in public service is probably going to end next year, at the end of his second term. A grand jury investigation prevented him from joining the Obama cabinet, and Richardson probably won’t seek elected office again.

It’s exactly the kind of dynamic that allows an official to put political concerns aside and do the right thing.

Gov. Bill Richardson, who has supported capital punishment, signed legislation to repeal New Mexico’s death penalty, calling it the “most difficult decision in my political life.”

The new law replaces lethal injection with a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The repeal takes effect on July 1, and applies only to crimes committed after that date.

“Regardless of my personal opinion about the death penalty, I do not have confidence in the criminal justice system as it currently operates to be the final arbiter when it comes to who lives and who dies for their crime,” Richardson said.

The death penalty repeal was approved by the New Mexico House last month, and the state Senate last week. Richardson had until midnight last night to make up his mind, and after a visit to the state penitentiary yesterday afternoon, the governor made the right call.

“More than 130 death row inmates have been exonerated in the past 10 years in this country, including four New Mexicans — a fact I cannot ignore,” Richardson said. “Even with advances in DNA and other forensic evidence technologies, we can’t be 100 percent sure that only the truly guilty are convicted of capital crimes.”

New Mexico now joins New Jersey as the only state to ban executions. The AP noted that 14 other states do not impose capital punishment.