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March 19 2009

Press release: New Mexico Abolishes the Death Penalty. Governor Richardson invited to Rome by the Community of Sant’Egidio to light up the Colosseum

 
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New Mexico Abolishes the Death Penalty.
It is the 15th State to Eliminate the Death Penalty in the US.
Governor Richardson invited to Rome by the Community of Sant’Egidio to light up the Colosseum

After many attempts by legislators and civil society, after the Judiciary Committee at the Senate of New Mexico passed the bill repealing the death penalty on March 10, 2009, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed H.B. 285 on March 18, 2009. It is a bi-partisan bill that replaces the death penalty with life imprisonment.  New Mexico is the fifteenth state to abolish capital punishment. It matches and follows by less than two years what New Jersey's legislature passed in December 2007 and Governor Corzine signed on December 17th 2007: the eve of the historical approval by the UN General Assembly in New York of the Resolution on a Global Moratorium on the Death Penalty.

The Community of Sant’Egidio congratulates Governor Bill Richardson, a man of international experience and a man of peace, who before serving as Governor of New Mexico spent remarkable efforts to free hostages and to reduce the impact of violence from the Balkans to the Middle East while serving for the U.S. administration, for his courageous step.

The Community of Sant’Egidio has invited Governor Richardson to Rome, for a special lighting of the Colosseum, the living logo of the campaign “Cities for Life” – Cities Against the Death Penalty and in favour of a system of justice capable of respecting life, to highlight this historical step as an inspiration to the world. New Mexico’s initiative is an example that can become contagious to other states, inside and outside the US.  Recently, many other states have been considering similar bills because of increasing evidence of flaws in the judicial system, the high number of innocent, exonerated death row prisoners, the larger pressure of victims’ families and the relevant savings that can result from ending the death penalty: Nebraska, Maryland, Kansas, New Hampshire Colorado, and Montana are among them.  Earlier this year, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley called on his state's legislature to end the death penalty citing both ethical and financial concerns. The economic crisis has increased the voices calling for the abrogation of the death penalty as a useless, expensive, ineffective tool for administrating justice and fighting crime. In California, where the biggest death row in the US is located and about 600 people sentenced to death wait an average more than 20 years before execution, there is growing concern about “unusual and cruel punishment” in the waiting period on death row itself and about the bankrupt justice system that is overwhelming the Supreme Court with appeals. The growing concern about the death penalty comes from the very families of the victims of crime, among whom the  argument that the state has to apply the death penalty in order to punish the perpetrators and “reimburse” those who have suffered a terrible loss is losing ground. “We don't want it. We don't need it. It doesn't work. So let's get rid of it," said Michelle Giger, whose father was fatally shot by a drifter in Santa Rosa in 1984. It is the general feeling of a large part of the world and in the US too: many victims’ family members ask aloud not to kill in their name, and now 1,000 cities in the world, including some in retentionist countries, have joined the movement of the Cities Against the Death Penalty, launched by the Community of Sant’Egidio and supported by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

“It is a historical step. It goes in the direction of a new feeling in the world for a higher threshold of justice, capable of rejecting a culture of death under any circumstance,” – said Mario Marazziti, coordinator of the anti-death penalty campaign of the Community of Sant’Egidio. “It is a sign that a new consciousness is growing in the world and in American society, focused more on tackling violence than on a spectacular and inhuman treatment of criminals or supposed criminals. The ambition of tackling poverty and emptiness has been lost, letting the vacuum be filled by ignorance, drugs, violence, gangs and fear”.

Governor Bill Richardson's office reported that it has heard from thousands of New Mexicans on the bill to repeal the death penalty over the last three days. On Tuesday evening, they reported that they had received 9413 calls, emails and walk-in visits on the issue. Of those, according to a poll, the vast majority, 7,169, supported repeal of the death penalty and 2,244 were opposed. “It is a step that should have been taken even if the poll had gone in a different way – added Mario Marazziti - since we all need less death and a higher level of justice, but it is a remarkable sign of how people’s feelings about the death penalty are changing, resisting instincts and starting to concentrate on what really counts, both in justice and life”.

Piazza di S. Egidio 3 a, 00153 Roma – Tel. 39 06585661 – Fax 39 065883625

www.santegidio.org - e-mail [email protected]


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