New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed legislation today abolishing the death penalty in New Mexico, making it the second state to repeal the death penalty since a U.S. Supreme Court decision reinstated it in 1976. Fourteen other states do not permit the death penalty.

The new law takes effect July 1 and replaces the death penalty with a life sentence that has no possibility of parole. It only applies to crimes committed after that date, and doesn’t affect the sentences of the two men currently on death row in New Mexico.

Richardson said he signed the bill because of the risk that innocent people could be executed. ‘More than 130 death row inmates have been exonerated in the past 10 years in this country, including four New Mexicans — a fact I cannot ignore.’

Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, applauded New Mexico’s repeal of the death penalty and encouraged other states to consider doing the same, pointing out that ‘the death penalty drains resources from state coffers which could otherwise be used for much-needed increases in budgets for law enforcement, neighborhood policing, adult and juvenile crime prevention, substance abuse treatment and counseling, as substance abuse often leads to crime, and murder victims’ families’ support programs.’

Six other states currently have pending legislation to abolish the death penalty. New Jersey abolished the death penalty in 2007.