New Mexico governor Bill Richardson signed legislation today that ended the death penalty as a means of punishing those who commit heinous acts in his state.
Calling it the "most difficult decision" in his career, Richardson signed the bill passed by the New Mexico legislature because he did 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."
I applaud Richardson's decision. I've always had mixed views when it came to the death penalty in practice -- I felt that it wasn't the proper way to punish a criminal, that it wasn't the state's business in deciding who lives or who dies, and so forth. I also saw the merits in executing person who commit acts so deplorable that keeping them alive seemed distasteful (someone who kills hundreds of people, including children, like Timothy McVeigh).
But at the same time, in a situation where perfection is required -- we don't want to take the lives of innocents -- perfection is lacking. Over 130 death row inmates have had their names cleared in the past ten years. That's 130 people who could have been killed...who knows how many more innocent people have been sent to their deaths.