U.S. News

New Mexico lawmakers vote to repeal death penalty

PHOENIX (Reuters) - New Mexico state lawmakers voted on Friday to repeal the death penalty and replace it with a sentence of life imprisonment without parole.

The Democratic-controlled state Senate voted 24-18 for a bill to revoke the death penalty, a source at the chief clerk’s office said.

New Mexico’s House of Representatives, also controlled by Democrats, previously voted in favor of the repeal, and it will now go to Governor Bill Richardson for his signature. A call to the Democratic governor’s office was not immediately returned.

According to news reports, Richardson opposed repealing the death penalty in the past but said this week he had not taken a final decision on the issue.

There are two prisoners currently on death row in New Mexico.

If the measure is signed into law, New Mexico would become the 15th state to abandon capital punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. New York and New Jersey repealed capital punishment in 2007 and bills to abolish it are pending in several states, the center said.

New Mexico has carried out only one execution since the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976. Neighboring Texas is America’s most active death penalty state.

There have been more than 1,130 executions in the United States since the 1970s.

Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Peter Cooney