[JURIST] The New Mexico House of Representatives [official website] passed a bill Monday that would abolish the state death penalty [JURIST news archive]. HB 190 [text; bill history] proposes replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment without possibility of release or parole. Bill sponsor Rep. Gail Chasey [official profile] said the death penalty fails as a crime deterrent and has been disproportionately applied to minorities and the poor. The bill passed 41-28, and now goes to the State Senate for approval. The Senate defeated a similar bill in 2005 after it passed 38-31 in the House. New Mexico currently employs lethal injection [DPIC backgrounder] but has only carried out one execution since 1976. The Las Cruces Sun-News has more.
The death penalty has recently been challenged in several states following concerns over cruelty and procedure. Earlier this month Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen issued an executive order [JURIST report] directing the Tennessee Commissioner of Corrections to review the manner in which death sentences are carried out and granted temporary reprieves to four inmates on death row. In January, a North Carolina state judge issued an injunction [JURIST report] blocking two executions until Governor Mike Easley hands down new procedures to execute capital defendants without the presence of doctors. Capital punishment has also been suspended in Florida and California [JURIST reports]. In early January, the New Jersey Death Penalty Commission [official website] recommended abolishing the death penalty [JURIST report] there.