Updated: Thursday, 19 Mar 2009, 11:21 PM MDT
Published : Thursday, 19 Mar 2009, 10:57 PM MDT
SANTA FE (KRQE) - Despite signing the repeal of capital punishment Gov. Bill Richardson said Thursday a man accused of killing a Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy should still be executed if sentenced to death.
"I support the death penalty in the most heinous of cases," Richardson said.
Michael Astorga and five other men are awaiting trial for capital murder, and they could still be sentenced to death.
The new law doesn't take effect until July 1, and doesn't apply to any cases before then.
The Astorga case is especially high-profile. He was already wanted for murder when prosecutors say he shot Deputy James McGrane during a traffic stop two years ago.
District Attorney Kari Brandenburg is seeking the death penalty for Astorga, and her spokesman said Thursday that's still on.
The governor agrees.
"I think Astorga should go to the death penalty," Richardson said
Clint Wellborn, the president of the New Mexico District Attorneys Association, said if Astorga or any of the others are sentenced to death their lawyers likely argue the repeal covers them too. But that would be a tough sell, he said.
"The crime was committed, but the sentencing didn't take happen until after the statute had been put into effect," Wellborn explained. "They have the Constitution against them; they have a statute against them."
Some states are considering abolishing the death penalty for budget reasons. Richardson said that's not why he did it. For him, it was strictly a matter of conscience, he said.
The repeal also does not cover two men already on death row.
There has been no word yet on whether their attorneys will try to get them off the hook.