House Judiciary Committee Approves Legislation To Reinstate Death Penalty

News From The Special Legislative Session:

The House Judiciary Committee of the New Mexico Legislature approved legislation Friday evening to reinstate the death penalty in New Mexico for those who murder law enforcement officers, corrections officers or children.

The legislation, House Bill 7, is sponsored by Rep. Monica Youngblood and Rep. Andy Nuñez.

“The death penalty is a fitting punishment for the monsters that murder innocent children,” Youngblood said. “It gives prosecutors another option to use while they seek the justice these children deserve.”

“Too many law enforcement officers are being killed in the line of duty, like Ofc. Jose Chavez from my community of Hatch,” Nuñez said. “We need to increase the penalties those who murder the public servants protecting their communities.”

Gov. Susana Martinez called for the reinstatement after the recent murders of law enforcement officers and children, including Victoria Martens in Albuquerque, which horrified the state.

Youngblood and Nuñez’s legislation also was referred to the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.

House Bill 7 was the third bill to keep New Mexicans safe passed Friday by the House Judiciary Committee.

The House Judiciary Committee also passed legislation to expand “Baby Brianna’s Law”. Rep. Conrad James and Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes sponsored the bill that makes all acts of intentional child abuse resulting in the death of the child punishable by life imprisonment regardless of the age of the child.

The Committee approved the bill by a vote of 12 to 1. The bill will expand Baby Brianna’s Law to include all children under the age of 18. Currently, individuals who intentionally abuse a child resulting in the death of the child face life in prison only if the child is under the age of 12.

“As a mother of two, protecting children of all ages has been and will continue to be a priority for me. Any adult who abuses a child that results in death should be subject to the strictest of penalties,” Maestas Barnes said. “Expanding Baby Brianna’s Law is vital as we continue to do all we can to protect our most precious gifts, our children. It’s time to pass this bill – especially given that the proposal passed the House unanimously in the previous session – to provide more protections for children.”

The law is named after Brianna Lopez, an infant who was killed by members of her family in 2002. Brianna’s mother was convicted and sentenced under an old law. She was recently released after only serving 13 years for her role in Brianna’s death.

James sponsored a bill to expand Baby Brianna’s Law during the last regular session. It passed the House by a vote of 63 to 0 but died in the Senate Public Affairs Committee. The bill now will now go to the House floor for a vote.

The third piece of legislation passed by the House Judiciary Committee in this special session is Rep. Paul Pacheco and Rep. John Zimmerman’s bill to reform New Mexico’s “Three Strikes Law”. 

HB 5, also known as “Lilly’s Law”, was approved by a bipartisan vote of 8 to 4. The legislation will expand the list of violent felony crimes that would make an offender eligible for mandatory life sentencing. No defendant has been convicted under the current law because the list of crimes included in the law is extremely narrow.

The bill is named for Lilly Garcia, a 4-year-old girl who was the victim of a violent road rage incident in Albuquerque last year.

Pacheco introduced Lilly’s Law during the regular session held earlier this year. It passed the House by a vote of 47 to 15 and was approved by the Senate Public Affairs Committee by a vote of 6 to 2. The bill eventually died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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