Friday, March 20, 2009

Statement by Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP, on New Mexico's repeal of Capital Punishment

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and the state legislature made the right decision in repealing capital punishment. The governor’s inspirational leadership is an exemplar of the intersection of morality and wise governance that serves our nation well.

We congratulate our New Mexico State Conference and Sante Fe Branch that worked tirelessly to support the repeal. Their efforts helped result in a strong bipartisan vote in the New Mexico legislature reflecting a growing consensus that the death penalty has failed the people of New Mexico. They are joining millions of citizens nationwide who understand that capital punishment risks executing the innocent, is unfairly applied, fails victims’ families and law enforcement and wastes scarce taxpayer dollars .

Coretta Scott King said, "As one whose husband and mother-in-law have both died as the victims of murder assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital offenses. An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by legalized murder."

Coretta’s prescient quote presaged a growing chorus of deep concern about the death penalty across the country.

In this time of fiscal crisis, it is more important than ever to make smart choices when it comes to meeting the needs of our citizens. By repealing the death penalty, New Mexico can now focus resources on the important issue of providing tangible assistance to the families of murder victims. Additional measures making their way through the legislature will enable New Mexico to use the savings gained from ending the death penalty to provide a reparation award to children of murder victims, provide services and programs to murder victims’ families, create a murder victim family services fund and require employers to provide leave to crime victims to attend judicial proceedings.

Governor Bill Richardson and the state legislature are to be applauded for their moral courage. In doing so, they light a candle for smart crime policies for our entire nation. We sincerely hope that their enlightened leadership will clear a path for other states to follow.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP--the nation's oldest, largest and most widely-recognized grassroots–based civil rights organization—is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Its more than half-million members and supporters throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

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