Overview: Capital punishment in New Mexico

The New Mexican

Here’s a list of all legal executions performed by the New Mexico Department of Corrections (between 1913 and 1929 all executions there were the responsibilities of individual county sheriffs):

• July 21, 1933: Two men die in the state’s new electric chair. The first was Thomas Johnson, a black man convicted of killing 18-year-old Angelina Jaramillo. Through the years some have claimed that Johnson was framed by authorities. In author Ralph Melnick’s Justice Betrayed (2002), Melnick argues Johnson was innocent and the guilty party was part of the victim’s family. Melnick points out that Johnson’s race constantly was made an issue in The New Mexican at the time, with Johnson frequently referred to as “The Negro” in the newspaper’s stories and headlines.

• Santiago Garduno was executed the same day as Johnson. He was convicted of murdering his stepson. Garduno gave the boy a drink of whiskey laced with strychnine.

• May 10, 1946: Pedro Talamonte, who was convicted in Gallup of murdering his 25-year-old wife.

• June 13, 1947: Louis Young was the second black man accused of killing a Santa Fe woman to die in the electric chair. Young was a prison inmate who worked as personal handyman at the prison warden’s home which was near the victim’s house. Young confessed to the crime following a late-night interrogation in his cell by authorities, though he soon recanted.

• Feb. 19, 1954: Arthur Johnson, who was convicted of murdering and robbing a Hobbs man.

• Oct. 29, 1954: Frederick Heisler, who was convicted of murdering a man who had given him a ride hitchhiking.

• Feb. 24, 1956: James Larry Upton, who also was convicted of murdering a man who had given him a ride hitchhiking. According to newspaper accounts, several spectators at his electrocution were drunk and rowdy.

• Jan. 8, 1960: David Cooper Nelson, who was the first and only New Mexico inmate to die in the gas chamber.