Gov. Bill Richardson decision to repeal New Mexico’s death penalty and replace it with a maximum sentence of life without parole is being hailed by supporters as a major victory in the decades-old debate over state-sanctioned executions, says Stateline.org. It brings to 15 the number of states that do not execute inmates and underscores the nuanced modern landscape of capital punishment. While a growing number of states are seriously considering eliminating the death penalty–whether for moral, fiscal or political reasons–others are trying to reinstate or expand it. At the same time, the United States is on track to put more inmates to death this year than in any year since 1999.
Perhaps most significant in the short-term picture of capital punishment is that the United States is on track to execute some 80 inmates this year–the most in a decade.
Twenty inmates already have been executed through the first three months of 2009, including 12 in Texas, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment. Seven other Southern states–Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia–also have carried out death sentences this year. The spate of executions reflects a temporary uptick in the death penalty after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last year upholding lethal injection procedures used in Kentucky.