NEW MEXICO INMATES CONVICTED TO DEATH ROW WILL NOW FACE LIFE SENTENCES
SANTA FE (KSMX)- In 2009, Governor Bill Richardson signed HouseBill 2085, abolishing the death penalty in New Mexico. Now ten years later, the state supreme court has freed the last two inmates in the state that were still on death row.
The cases of Timothy Allen and Robert Fry will be sent back to the district court in San Juan County where the two men will face sentences of life imprisonment instead, under the ruling handed down Friday.
The Albuquerque Journal reported a statement from Justice Barabra J. Vigil. “In comparing petitioners’ cases to other equally horrendous cases in which defendants were not sentenced to death, we find no meaningful distinction which justifies imposing the death sentence upon Fry and Allen. The absence of such a distinction renders the ultimate penalty of death contrary to the people’s mandate that the sentence be proportionate to the penalties imposed in similar cases.”
Allen kidnapped, attempted to rape and then murdered 17-year-old Sandra Phillips in Northwestern New Mexico in 1994. Fry killed Betty Lee, a mother of five, in 2000 by hitting her with a sledgehammer and stabbing her.
Opponents of the death penalty had argued that capital punishment was not cost-effective, and Richardson, a Democrat, said at the time he signed the repeal bill into law that he did not have enough confidence in the criminal justice system to be the final arbiter of who lived and who died.
However, the repeal applied only to crimes committed after its effective date, and Fry and Allen remained on death row in New Mexico.
Before abolishing the death penalty, New Mexico had executed just one inmate since 1960, Terry Clark. In 2001, Terry Clark received a lethal injection after having been convicted of raping and killing Dena Lynn Gore, a 9-year-old Artesia girl.
The Journal also reported, “the Supreme Court ultimately split 3-2 in its Friday ruling, as retired Justices Edward L. Chávez and Charles W. Daniels, who were both sitting by designation, agreed with the majority opinion and each wrote their own concurring opinions. Chief Justice Judith Nakamura wrote the dissenting opinion and retired Justice Petra Jimenez Maes joined in the dissent.”