New Mexico votes to end executions
US state's senate decides to revoke death penalty in favour of life in prison.
Last Modified: 14 Mar 2009 04:55 GMT
The bill will now be sent to the state
governor for approval [Getty Images]

Legislators in New Mexico have voted to end the use of the death penalty in the southern US state.

The state senate, which is controlled by the Democrats, passed a bill to revoke the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole by 24 to 18 votes on Friday.

New Mexico's House of Representatives had approved the change a month ago and the bill would now be sent to Bill Richardson, the governor, who has three days to sign it into law once it reaches him.

The second-term Democratic governor had opposed the repeal but now says he will consider putting his signature on the bill.

"I have met with many people and will continue to consider all sides of the issue before making a decision," Richardson said in a statement after the vote.

'Tide turning'

There are two prisoners currently on death row in the state, but their sentences would not be affected by the repeal.

If Richardson does sign the law New Mexico will become the 15th out of 50 states to end capital punishment in the US.

It would follow New York and New Jersey abolishing the death penalty in 2007 and bills are pending in other states, including Montana and Kansas, to remove it from its statutes.

"The tide is turning across the country, and we are part of that tide," Ruth Hoffman, director of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry and a lobbyist against the death sentence, said.

New Mexico has executed one prisoner, Terry Clark a convicted child murderer, in the past 49 years.

However, more than 1,130 people have been executed nationwide since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

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