New Mexico to bring back death penalty for killers of children, cops

A view of the "lethal injection chamber" ©
Driven by recent deaths of two police officers and a 10-year-old girl, New Mexico legislature is inching closer to restoring the death penalty for those convicted of killing children or police and corrections officers.

The state House of Representatives voted 36-30 on Thursday morning to restore capital punishment by lethal injection in those particular cases, KOAT reported. Deliberations started at 2:45am and lasted through the night, with the minority Democrats accusing the Republican majority of timing the vote to avoid public scrutiny, according to KRQE.

Americans on the whole are not enthusiastic about capital punishment, according to the most recent survey by the Pew Research Center, showing 49 percent in support and 42 percent opposed to the death penalty. It remains very much a partisan issue, however, with 72 percent of Republicans in favor and 66 percent of Democrats opposed.

New Mexico repealed capital punishment in 2009, when Bill Richardson was governor and Democrats commanded both the House and the Senate. Republican Governor Susana Martinez has been pushing for stricter sentencing ever since two police officers were shot and killed in less than a month this summer.

Adding impetus to the bill was the gruesome murder of 10-year-old Victoria Martens in Albuquerque in August. According to the criminal complaint, the girl was injected with drugs, raped, stabbed, strangled and dismembered. Three people were charged in the death: Victoria’s mother Michelle, Michelle’s boyfriend Fabian Gonzales, and his cousin Jessica Kelley.

The capital punishment measure now goes before the state Senate, which is meeting in special session to close a gap in the state budget. The fate of the bill is uncertain since Democrats have the majority in the chamber, with 24 out of 42 seats.