Gov. Bill Richardson Bans the Death Penalty in New Mexico!

Bill Richardson has put political concerns aside and done the right thing.

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.

Steve Benen is "blogger in chief" of the popular Washington Monthly online blog, Political Animal. His background includes publishing The Carpetbagger Report, and writing for a variety of publications, including Talking Points Memo, The American Prospect, the Huffington Post, and The Guardian. He has also appeared on NPR's "Talk of the Nation," MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," Air America Radio's "Sam Seder Show," and XM Radio's "POTUS '08."