Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Death Penalty: GOP's Chance to Speak-Up

The governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, recently signed a bill into law repealing the death penalty in New Mexico. The Republicans now have a foot hold on the Democrats and now have a platform to run against Democrats in upcoming elections. In New Mexico, specifically, a Republican challenger can now use the promise of returning the death penalty to the courts as a platform against Lt. Governor Diane Denish. Recent polls in New Mexico indicate that the electorate is split on whether or not the death penalty should be an option in homicide and rape cases. The majorities of Republicans are in favor of the death penalty and will likely be passionate about a candidate who will fight to bring the sentence back. Governor Richardson's reasons for repealing the death penalty undermine the legal system, take power away from the courts and put the lives of police officers in jeopardy as Bernalillo Sheriff Darren White has made very clear recently. The death penalty is a controversial issue that will ignite passion, and anger, and create a good race for New Mexico governor in 2010.


  1. I have to agree with you that a hot button issue like this often energizes a base electorate. I don't know if this issue would have the legs that the GOP needs in NM, as much as something involving privacy, religion, guns or gay marriage.

    The death penalty is also a tough issue to split along party lines. Many evangelicals feel strongly about the value of life, thus anti-abortion stances, etc. Would the death penalty conflict with the religious views of these voters, and make them hesitant to vote Republican. Would the Republicans need another issue to keep them on board, like abortion, come 2010.

    I've been a registered Dem since my 18th birthday, have worked on several campaigns and proudly identify myself as a flaming liberal patriot. However, I am 100% for the death penalty. I would probably oppose a primary candidate that had this in their platform even. I firmly believe that a strong justice system, and visible police force keep a community safe, and nothing else is effective.

    So, I agree that the GOP needs a hot button for 2010, but I think they may still spin their wheels with the death penalty issue.

    Richardson has almost become irrelevant politically since stepping down from the Cabinet appointment. Will he even run? He grew his Al Gore - professor beard back. I think this is a strong suggestion that he's looking for a emeritus position at UNM Law or PoliSci department.

  2. I'm not sure it should be a major issue. Personally, I think the State has the right to impose the death penalty. Actually, the possibility of a life sentence instead is probably due solely to the fact that we're a wealthy society and can afford the costs of imprisonment of a person for 40-60 years.

    The question becomes whether it's practical for the state to expend the amount of money on legal issues involved with the death penalty and the constant appeals...if that could be avoided, I'd say yes - you should have a death penalty. I'm actually not certain, though, that a life sentence without the possibility of parole isn't a harsher sentence.

    When I was young, the Catholic Church supported the death penalty. These days, not so much - so there might be a religious factor in the vote as well.

  3. SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: A Rebuttal to Governor Richardson
    Repeal of the Death Penalty in New Mexico
    Dudley Sharp, contact info below

    1) Gov. Bill Richardson states: "Faced with the reality that our system for imposing the death penalty can never be perfect, my conscience compels me to replace the death penalty with a solution that keeps society safe." (1)

    REBUTTAL: There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US since 1900. There is overwhelming proof that many thousands of innocents have been murdered because of the lack of perfection in parole, probation, early release, prison/jail management etc.

    Why did the Governor choose to end that criminal justice practice - the death penalty - which may be the least likely to result in innocent deaths?

    Lack of perfection had nothing to do with his decision.

    In addition, the death penalty protects innocents at a higher level than does a life sentence. (FOOTNOTE: "Death penalty repeal arguments are false" paragraph 2 & 3).

    No one disputes that the death penalty has greater due process than lesser sentences - meaning that actual innocents, serving life, are more likely to die in prison than are actual innocents likely to be executed.

    2) Governor Richardson stated: "The bill I am signing today .. . replaces the death penalty with true life without the possibility of parole – a sentence that ensures violent criminals are locked away from society forever .. . ." . (1)

    REBUTTAL: Governor Richardson knows that there is no such thing as true life without "possibility" of parole.

    The only absolute with sentencing is that the executive branch, a Governor or President, can commute any sentence and release criminals, early - as Governor Richardson did, in Nov. 2004, when he commuted Janet Vigil's "life" case. (2)

    How quickly he "forgot".

    Gov. Richardson's buddy, former New Mexico Gov. Toney Anaya, commuted William Wayne Gilbert's death sentence in 1986.

    Gilbert led a 7 inmate prison escape, a few months later, where Gilbert shot a guard. (3)

    Gilbert had previously murdered " . . . his wife, Carol; a newlywed couple, Kenn and Noel Johnson, and a young model, Barbara McMullen. He bragged of other murders, as well. 'It was very easy to kill," he said. "It's almost like it's the night before Christmas when you're 5 years old.' "

    Hardly a great candidate for commutation. But, this commutation wasn't about the criminal or about the citizens of New Mexico. It was all about Gov. Anaya. His commutations of all death row, had nothing to do with allegations of protecting innocents - it did just the opposite, of course - he just didn't like the death penalty and he takes no responsibility for the outcome.

    In addition, legislatures can write new laws which, retroactively, reduce sentences already given.

    Gov. Richardson is aware that states around the US are, now, doing just that, as more consider reducing life sentences to save money by releasing lifers, early.

    3) The Governor stated: "More than 130 death row inmates have been exonerated in the past 10 years in this country, including four New Mexicans – a fact I cannot ignore." (1)

    REBUTTAL: The Governor has been informed, repeatedly, that the 130 exonerated is a complete fraud, as has been well documented by many and presented to the Governor, often (FOOTNOTE, paragraph 3). Not only is he not ignoring this deception, he is advancing it, even when it is so easy to disprove. Governor, how many innocents were harmed and murdered because of the lack of perfection in parole, probation, early release, prison/jail management etc.?

    4) What about law enforcements' concerns?

    "The New Mexico Sheriffs' and Police Association opposed repeal, saying capital punishment deters violence against police officers, jailers and prison guards. District attorneys also opposed the legislation, arguing that the death penalty was a useful prosecutorial tool." (4)

    They told the Governor that the death penalty saves lives and helped solve cases.

    The Governor conceded that "the death penalty may be a deterrent"(1), thereby telling us that the death penalty is more likely to save innocent lives than it is to take them.

    He also conceded that by repealing the death penalty he was taken away a tool for law enforcement. (1) He didn't speculate how many innocent lives he was sacrificing by ending that tool.

    We may never know why he really ended the death penalty. We do know that it had nothing to do with saving innocent lives.

    "Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White said law enforcement officers have 'lost a layer of protection and it's a sad day in New Mexico.' " (4)

    (1) Gov. Bill Richardson's statement on signing the repeal of New Mexico's death penalty (3/18/09)

    (2) " In Loving Memory of Estevan Vigil", http://www.nmsoh.org/vigil_estevan_mem.htm

    (3) "Let Loose by the Governor", The Justice Story, The New York Daily News, 3/11/07

    (4) "New Mexico governor signs measure to abolish death penalty"
    DEBORAH BAKER, Associated Press Writer, Originally published Wednesday, March 18, 2009 at 5:21 PM


    FOOTNOTE: "Death penalty repeal arguments are false"

    In a message dated 3/17/2009 4:37:39 P.M. Central Daylight Time, Sharpjfa writes:

    To: Governor Richardson, staff and cabinet and
    Corrections Department and Police Agencies and media throughout New Mexico

    From: Dudley Sharp, contact info, below

    Dear Honorable Governor Richardson:

    In addition to all of the pro-repeal arguments being weak or false (see below), the death penalty should remain as the just sanction for some of the worst crimes.

    JUSTICE: The death penalty should remain in New Mexico because of justice. New Mexico is currently investigating serial murders which, to date, have reached 14 victims. Leave the death penalty option up to New Mexico jurors, for such cases as this, as well as the rape/murder of children and the murder of police officers and correction workers and other crimes.


    The LFC's (New Mexico's Legislative Finance Committee) fiscal evaluation wrongly found the North Carolina death penalty more expensive than a 20 year "life" sentence. It wasn't. The was the only study cited (1)

    Reasonable and responsible protocols, currently in use, will produce a death penalty which will cost less or no more than LWOP. (2)

    Example: Virginia executes in 5-7 years; 65% of those sentenced to death have been executed; 15% of their death penalty cases are overturned. With the high costs of long term imprisonment, a true life sentence will be more expensive than such a death penalty protocol. (2)

    Most cost studies suffer from major problems, such as a) not crediting the death penalty for allowing plea bargains to a true life sentence ( $300,000 to $1 million savings or more, for each plea); 2) not including geriatric care for life sentences (cost of $60,000-$90, 000/year/inmate); c) deceptively inflating costs of executions, based upon putting all the costs of every death penalty case into those executed (see Florida); d) many more such problems, or even worse. (2)


    Of all the government programs in the world, that put innocents at risk, is there one with a safer record and with greater protections than the US death penalty? Unlikely.

    Innocents are more protected because of enhanced due process, enhanced incapacitation and enhanced deterrence. (3)

    Anti death penalty folks claim that 130 "innocents" have been released from death row, nationally. Fact checking easily uncovers this as a scam. Study reviews have found that 70-83% of those claims are not credible. Possibly 25 "actual" innocents have been identified and released from death row. (4)

    There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.

    There is overwhelming proof that living murderers harm and murder, again. Executed ones don't.

    3) 16 recent studies find for DETERRENCE

    16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses, find for death penalty deterrence. No surprise. Life is preferred over death, death is feared more than life. (5)

    There is a constant within all jurisdictions -- negative consequences will always deter some - a truism.

    NOTE: Repeal proponents bring up that many death penalty states have higher murder rates than non death penalty states. That has nothing to do with the deterrent effect failing, as fully explained to them and you in a previous email. (6)

    Whether a jurisdiction has high murder rates or low ones, rather rising or lowering rates, the presence of the death penalty will produce fewer net murders, the absence of the death penalty will produce more net murders.

    An analogy. Consider smoking. Whether a jurisdiction has high smoking rates or low ones, or rising or lowering rates, the knowledge of medical problems from smoking will produce fewer net smokers, the absence of any medical problems from smoking would produce more net smokers.


    80% death penalty support, for specific capital murders, such as mass murder, serial murders, rape/murders, terrorism, etc. (6)

    -- 82% in the US favor executing Saddam Hussein, In Great Britain: 69%, France: 58%, Germany: 53%, Spain: 51%, Italy: 46%. , Le Monde (France) , 12/06
    -- 81% support Timothy McVeigh's execution - "the consensus of all major groups, including men, women, whites, nonwhites, "liberals" and "conservatives." 16% oppose (Gallup 5/2/01).
    -- 85% of liberal Connecticut supported serial/rapist murderer Michael Ross' "voluntary" execution. (Quinnipiac 1/12/05)
    -- 79% support death penalty for terrorists (4/26/2007 New York State poll)
    -- 78% of Nebraskans support death penalty for “heinous crimes.” 16% opposed. 76% opposed legislation to abolish. MPB Public Affairs Poll, 2/14/08)

    Most quoted polls wrongly poll for murder, not capital murders. The death penalty is only an option in capital cases. Possibly, 10% of all murder cases are death eligible. Those are the only cases relevant to death penalty polling.


    The US death penalty is likely the least arbitrary and capricious criminal sanctions in the US. About 60,000 murders qualified for a death penalty eligible trial, since 1973. 8000 murderers were so sentenced or 13% of those eligible. Based upon pre trial, trial, appellate and clemency/commutation realities and that high percentage (13%) of receiving the maximum sentence (absent mandatory sentences) the death penalty must be the least arbitrary and capricious sanction.


    Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part, is approved with proper attribution.

    Respectfully submitted, Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
    e-mail sharpjfa@aol.com, 713-622-5491,
    Houston, Texas

    Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

    A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally

    1) "LFC Fiscal Error: Death Penalty Repeal - For Senate Judiciary Committee Record"
    email to Senate, 3/9/2009 6:11:28 P.M. Central Daylight Time
    2) "Cost Savings: The Death Penalty: For Senate Judiciary Committee Record", email to Senate, 3/9/2009 4:45:21 P.M. Central Daylight Time
    3) "Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents" NM, email to Governor Richardson, legislature and media, 3/4/2009 2:49:23 P.M. Central Daylight Time
    4) "The death row 130 "innocents" scam" NM, email to Governor Richardson, legislature and media, 3/4/2009 1:36:11 P.M. Central Standard Time
    5) "The Death Penalty is a Deterrent - 16 Recent Studies", NM, email to Governor Richardson, legislature and media on 3/4/2009 1:31:35 P.M. Central Daylight Time
    6) "Death Penalty and Deterrence: Let's be clear" NM, email to Governor Richardson, legislators and media on 3/4/2009 1:52:09 P.M. Central Standard Time

  4. Why did Gov. Richardson repeal the death penalty? His legacy.
    Dudley Sharp, contact info below

    "(Richardson) admitted his legacy factored into his calculus."(1) The evidence is that it was "the" factor.

    "(Richardson) acknowledged that he hoped his administration would be remembered for 'doing the right thing, making decisions on matters of conscience.' " (1)

    In a wealth of understatement, Gov. Richardson admits that some of the anti death penalty arguments he used may not be true: "I am not totally, totally convinced that every argument that I have just said to you is accurate,” he said." (1)

    The arguments were inaccurate and are easily contradicted. The governor had all the evidence necessary to show that, further enforcing that the repeal was all about the governor. (2)

    In a matter of judgement that he called the "most difficult decision in my political life."(3), the Governor should have had the character and conscience to thoroughly vet all of the arguments before him. He admitted that did not. He was , knowingly, irresponsible.

    But, why?

    Gov. Richardson had seen his hopes for more national and international prominence go down in flames, with regard to the Commerce Secretary nomination debacle. Gov. Richardson may not have been fully up-front with the Obama administration, regarding a corruption investigation in New Mexico. Richardson withdrew his nomination.

    The Governor and close cronies are in the eye of the storm, regarding the FBI investigation into the awarding of state contracts to political donors. The firestorm may affect the remainder of Governor Richardson's term and beyond. (3)

    Hypocritically, when speaking of that ongoing investigation, Richardson states: “I have faith in the criminal justice process, and we must allow it to run its course.” (3)

    Cynical US leaders know that they become heroes in parts of Europe, as well as with many within the US, by ending the death penalty. It notches up their level of celebrity and increases their speaking engagements and fees.

    "Richardson said he has long believed — and still does — that the death penalty was a "just punishment" in rare cases for the worst crimes." He added, ". . . from a foreign policy perspective, the death penalty 'did not seem to me to be good moral leadership and good foreign policy.' " (4)

    It is impossible to reconcile the Governor's current, unchanged belief, that the death penalty is a "just punishment" but his getting rid of it is a sign of "moral leadership". One does not show moral leadership or responsible policy choices by ending justice. Yet. Richardson admits that he did just that.

    Justice would have been a much more honorable legacy.

    It is much easier to reconcile the Governor's decision when based upon his personal self interest, a legacy of more international prominence, producing more speaking engagements and fees.

    Governor Richardson cannot seek the governorship, again.

    The Icon

    Incarcerated felon, former Illinois Gov. George Ryan dishonestly, emptied that state's death row, prior to leaving office and prior to his trial.

    Governors, prosecutors and victim's rights groups, among others, condemned his actions.

    Did Ryan care? Of course not. He was politically dead in the US and, very likely, soon to be incarcerated - which he was.

    Ryan is considered a hero by murderers and others opposed to the death penalty. Because of his action, in sparing incredibly depraved murderers, Ryan has been nominated, repeatedly, for a Nobel Peace Prize.

    If Ryan gets out of prison, he can depend on speaking engagements and fees, based solely on his sparing murderers.

    That is a much better deal than fading into history as just another disgraced, corrupt and penniless politician, whose actions resulted in innocent deaths and making Illinois a more dangerous place.

    Legacy. Indeed.

    copyright 2009 Dudley Sharp
    Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part, is approved with proper attribution.

    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
    e-mail sharpjfa@aol.com, 713-622-5491,
    Houston, Texas

    Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

    A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally

    (1) "Bill Richardson admits doubt about death-penalty decision", Trip Jennings, The New Mexico Independent, 3/19/09.

    (2) "SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: A Rebuttal to Governor Richards: Repeal of the Death Penalty in New Mexico" Dudley Sharp, 3/19/2009 5:48:06 P.M. Central Daylight Time; Subject Title of email: "Rebuttal to Governor Richardson - Repeal of the Death Penalty in New Mexico"

    (3) "Richardson Scandal Simmered in New Mexico", Trip Jennings, The Washington Independent, 1/6/09 12:34 PM

    (4) "New Mexico governor abolishes capital punishment", by Deborah Baker, Associated Press, March 19, 2009; 12:27 PM