Thursday 27 January 2011

State argues Astorga death-penalty case

State responds to Astorga attorney's argument

Convicted cop-killer Michael Astorga claims he's being singled out and that the state's ban on capital punishment should apply to him too.
On Wednesday, the state responded with a 33-page response written by the attorney general’s office, and one of its arguments is that the election of Susana Martinez shows New Mexicans still want the death penalty.
It's been nearly seven months since Astorga was convicted for the 2006 murder of Deputy James McGrane. A different jury was supposed to decide in January if he should be executed.
The State Supreme Court put that on hold, after Astorga's attorney Gary Mitchell argued since the state banned the death penalty for all crimes committed after July 1, 2009, that it's inherently wrong to execute people for crimes committed before that date. He also claims the ban means New Mexicans are against capiital punishment in general.
On Wednesday, the state submitted its response to the high court.
The Attorney General's office and prosecutors pointed out that the ban passed by lawmakers kept the death penalty in play for crimes committed before that date, which reflects what the people want. They also said the state high court has never ruled the death penalty unconstitutional, or that it's cruel and unusual punishment, as Mitchell claims it is.
Mitchell claims Astorga was singled out when the death penalty ban wasn't made retroactive. The state mentioned that other murderers could also face the death penalty as cold cases are solved, even pointing to the West Mesa serial killer.
As for the argument that Astorga is being treated differently than he would if he'd killed the deputy today, the state said Astorga knew the rules at the time of the murder in 2006.
Rep. Dennis Kintigh has filed legislation to re-instate the death penalty, something Gov. Susana Martinez supports.

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