Republican lawmaker proposes bringing back death penalty in NM 

Republican lawmaker proposes bringing back death penalty in NM

There’s a new push to bring back the death penalty in New Mexico to combat violent crime.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – There’s a new push to bring back the death penalty in New Mexico to combat violent crime. 

State Rep. John Block (R – Alamogordo, Otero County) drafted a new proposal aiming to reinstate capital punishment for the most violent criminals in New Mexico. Former Gov. Bill Richardson abolished the death penalty in New Mexico in 2009. 

“It’s important that we hold violent offenders accountable for their actions,” Block said. “New Mexico should become the most hostile state for violent criminals, because I don’t want my constituents to be dying in the streets.” 

Block believes the death penalty could serve as a deterrence for violent crime. 

According to the proposal, only the most violent and heinous crimes would qualify for the death penalty – such as killing a law enforcement officer on duty, raping a child, or outright murder. 

Block’s proposal says all executions would be done through intravenous injections. 

The bill includes several exceptions to the death penalty – such as minors, people with intellectual disabilities, pregnant women, and defendants who are likely to be rehabilitated. 

The New Mexico Supreme Court would be required to review every death sentence before execution. 

“This is not a mandate to every DA that they must charge every single defendant with this, it is just another tool in the toolbox for prosecutors to use this on the most violent criminals,” Block said.

Rep. Block says he decided to draft a new proposal after Alamogordo police officer Anthony Ferguson was shot and killed in the line of duty earlier this year. Prosecutors say the suspect in that case was out on pretrial release in a separate, drug-related case. 

“One of my constituents died, because we don’t have tough on crime policies in the state, and I’m not willing to accept that,” Block said. 

The freshman lawmaker believes many New Mexicans on both sides of the aisle would support reinstating the death penalty in order to reduce violent crime rates. 

A recent Gallup poll from October found 55% of Americans support the death penalty. That’s down from 65% support in a similar poll from 2009 – the year the death penalty was abolished in New Mexico. 

Former Gov. Susanna Martinez, a Republican, pushed to reinstate the death penalty in 2016. Republican state lawmakers submitted several proposals to bring it back around that time. It appears Block’s proposal is the first since 2018. 

Block would need to win support from Democrat leaders in the House and Senate to advance his bill through the upcoming 30-day legislative session. He would also need to convince Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, to sign a final bill – which appears unlikely.

A spokesperson with the governor’s office says, “It is widely accepted that the death penalty has no meaningful deterrent effect on violent crime.”

Block believes his bill deserves a hearing. 

“They claim to want to fix the crime issue, well, this is a crime bill,” he said. “This is absolutely an option that we must consider, and if the governor and if anyone truly cares about crime, they will at least have a hearing on this bill and let the people tell them what they believe.” 

Several U.S. states have taken efforts to repeal the death penalty in recent years – including Colorado, which abolished the practice in 2020. Capital punishment is still legal in 27 states; however, only 11 states have carried out executions in the last decade.