Republican State Representative Monica Youngblood’s proposed legislation to reinstate the death penalty is the Republican response to the heinous killing of 10 year old Victoria Martens a few months ago.
Following is my September 2, 2016 Albuquerque Journal Letter to the Editor entitled “We must fix what is behind the crimes”:
There are times the death penalty is simply not good enough to render justice upon violent, immoral people who commit crimes against the most innocent, defenseless and helpless people, especially children, in our so called civilized society. I believe this to be true about the death penalty for those people who commit heinous crimes against their own defenseless children of tender years. The drugging, raping, murder, dismemberment and the burning of the body a 10 year child by her mother, her boyfriend and another is one such crime. Even life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is not enough for some violent crimes such as this, but justice is what needs to be sought by a civilized society, not vengeance by imposing the death penalty.
Thirty five years ago, I did a grand jury investigation of the mishandling of child abuse cases by a state agency, and to this day I can recall too many details of those crimes and the people I prosecuted. Since 2001, in New Mexico, no less than 22 children, ranging from ages of 5 weeks old to 3, 4, 5 months old to 3, 4, 5, and 11 years old, have been killed as a result of child physical and sexual abuse. (Re: August 31, 2016 Albuquerque Journal Editorial Guest column by Allen Sanchez.) Study after study has shown that children from lower economic homes have a higher risk to suffer severe physical abuse and sexual abuse from their parents. Cool heads must prevail and ensure swift justice is bought upon those who killed 10 year old Victoria Martens.
Our criminal justice system presumes innocence until proven guilty and demands due process of law, even for the most heinous of crimes, and not an “eye for an eye” approach to criminal justice reflected by the death penalty. Even more important, Albuquerque and New Mexico must find solutions to what contributed to or caused this most horrific crime: domestic violence, substance abuse, children living in severe poverty, a poor education system, the breakdown of the family unit, the failures of our social services and child protective services, a failed mental health system, an ineffective criminal justice system, a failing economy. We need to confront our demons and find solutions to the problems that caused this horrific crime against a child.
“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”