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The Clock is Ticking: Will Bill Richardson Abolish the Death Penalty In New Mexico?

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has until midnight tonight to sign legislation to shut down the state's death machinery.
 
 
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New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson may seem to have faded into obscurity following his aborted nomination to Obama's cabinet, but today could mark a red-letter day in his own administration. Last week, the state legislature passed a bill to get rid of the death penalty in New Mexico, making it the second state to pass abolition legislation in the country. (New Jersey abolished its death penalty in 2007.) Richardson, who has traditionally supported capital punishment, said in February that he was reconsidering his stance and was "50-50" on whether he would veto the bill. "I'm struggling with my position, but I definitely have softened my view on the death penalty," he said. This past Monday, he held "open office hours" to allow his constituents to make their voices heard; his office reports having received some 6,000 e-mails and phone calls on the matter since the weekend. The deadline for him to sign or veto the bill is midnight tonight.
Regardless of whether Gov. Richardson signs the abolition bill into law, prisoners who are now on death row in New Mexico still face execution. Currently there are only two, Robert Fry and Tim Allen. Because the law would not be retroactive, Fry and Allen would have to have their sentences commuted in order for their lives to be spared. According to New Mexico's KRQE News, "six other New Mexicans are awaiting trial under threat of the death penalty."

Liliana Segura is a staff writer and editor of AlterNet's Rights and Liberties and War on Iraq Special Coverage.