[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----NEW MEXICO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Mar 12 12:14:30 CST 2005
Death penalty drama----Democrat makes tough call on bid to repeal law
Resignation set in slowly on the faces of the audience.
When Sen. Richard Martinez, an Espanola Democrat, began to speak about
whether to repeal New Mexico's death penalty, the crowd seemed to lean
forward as one in their seats.
They knew - as Martinez did - that his vote would swing the committee for
or against the bill to eliminate capital punishment in New Mexico.
"This bill," he said, his face reddening, "has been a very difficult
situation for me."
Rep. Gail Beam, an Albuquerque Democrat, had made it this far, to the
Senate Judiciary Committee, and was now just one "yes" away from a floor
vote over a measure so loaded with emotional gasoline that everyone feared
4 years ago, Martinez said, he had voted to repeal New Mexico's death
penalty, joining 20 Senators who were defeated then by one vote against
Friday, it was Martinez's turn to be the deciding vote, to kill Beam's
He had talked over the past weekend, he said, with the family of a friend
who was murdered - "gunned down like an animal," Martinez said.
"My heart bleeds for the people that have lost loved ones, especially in
that manner," said Martinez, who described himself as a strong Catholic.
He also spent some of that time on the couch.
"I watched `The Green Mile.' Jesus Christ," Martinez said, with an
almost-chuckle. The recent film about death row "keeps coming to me, on a
But he reddened anew when he angrily denied rumors that he had been
coerced by Gov. Bill Richardson on the issue, a rumor that persisted in
the Roundhouse in the hours leading up to the committee's hearing.
"The governor hasn't called me on this," he said, stabbing the table with
a finger. "I'm following my heart."
With that, it was done.
The committee room had slowly filled to standing-room-only capacity.
Cockfighting? Impact fees? Forget it. People from all over the Roundhouse
seemed drawn to the crucible that had formed in the room.
Then, as slowly as it had intensified, the room began slowly to drain of
energy as Martinez spoke.
Beam and her witness, Andrea Vigil, slumped together at their small
witness table at the front of the room.
Emotions simmered over the top in different ways. Some witnesses began
slowly to heave, sobbing - whether with relief or regret it was hard to
Sen. Cisco McSorley, an Albuquerque Democrat, broke into his own speech to
demand in frustration that a door to the committee room be shut and stay
so, to reduce distractions to the wrenching testimony inside.
"What we do here today means that people will live and people will die,"
Her voice shaking, Beam made her final argument for her bill, but it was
over. With Martinez now against her bill, the deal was done.
The votes, 5 against her and four for her, tumbled in, and HB 576 was
tabled, meaning its progression to law was over.
As the audience spilled out into the hallways, Beam clutched at her
friends, crying softly.
"I don't know what happened," she said.
(source: Albuquerque Tribune)
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