New Hampshire

New Hampshire

EDITORIALS: New Hampshire's Concord Monitor Calls for Death Penalty Repeal

The Concord Monitor of New Hampshire called for repeal of the state's death penalty in a recent editorial. The paper contrasted the case of Michael Addison, the state's only death row inmate, to that of John Brooks, who was convicted of hiring three hitmen to kill a handyman, whom Brooks believed had stolen from him. Brooks received a sentence of life without parole. The Monitor noted, "Brooks was rich and white; Addison was poor and black.... Addison’s victim had the full force of New Hampshire law enforcement watching every twist and turn of the case; Brooks’s victim was little known and quickly forgotten. Different lawyers, different juries, different cases. But it’s difficult not to step back and wonder about the fairness of it all." Addison's death sentence was recently upheld by the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The editorial concluded by calling for repeal legislation in 2014, saying, "New Hampshire hasn’t used its death penalty in more than 70 years. We will be a better, fairer, more humane state without it." Read the full editorial below.

New Hampshire Supreme Court Upholds State's Only Death Sentence Pending Additional Review

On November 6 the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a lengthy ruling upholding the conviction and death sentence of Michael Addison, the state's only death row inmate. The case is the first death-penalty appeal to be decided by the Court in decades. The opinion said additional briefing and oral argument will be required before deciding "whether the sentence of death is excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases, considering both the crime and the defendant." Addison's attorney, David Rothstein, said he disagreed with the ruling in this first round of review but, “We look forward to the opportunity to address the proportionality of the death sentence, and we will work [ ] diligently on Mr. Addison’s behalf ...” Addison was convicted of the 2006 murder of Michael Briggs, a Manchester police officer. The New Hampshire legislature will consider a bill in 2014 to repeal the state's death penalty for future offenses. The Governor has said she would sign such a bill.

New Hampshire Legislator to Introduce Repeal Bill

On October 24, New Hampshire state representative Renny Cushing (pictured) will introduce a bill to repeal the state's death penalty. In addition to a bi-partisan group of co-sponsors, Cushing will be joined by Judge Walter Murphy--a former chief justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court and chair of the New Hampshire Death Penalty Study Commission; Ray Dodge--a former police chief; Bishop Peter Libasci--of the Catholic Diocese of Manchester; and Nancy Filiault--a murder victim family member. Cushing, whose father was murdered in 1988, is also the Executive Director of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights. In 2000, legislators voted to repeal the death penalty, but then-governor Jeanne Shaheen vetoed the bill. In 2009, the House also passed a repeal bill. New Hampshire has not had an execution since 1939. New Hampshire's current governor, Maggie Hassan, has said she would sign a repeal bill.

The Changing Face of the Death Penalty in American Politics

A recent column in The Economist examined the growing number of governors and other political leaders in the U.S. who are challenging the death penalty. In Arkansas, Governor Mike Beebe (pictured) announced in January that he would sign a death penalty abolition bill if the legislature sent him one. In Maryland, Governor Martin O'Malley has led a push to repeal the death penalty. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said he is reconsidering his support for the death penalty as that state considers its repeal. New Hampshire's new governor, Maggie Hassan, indicated she would sign a repeal bill if it reaches her, after two previous governors vetoed such actions. In Oregon, Governor John Kitzhaber suspended executions for the remainder of his term and asked legislators to review the issue. The Republican governors of Ohio and Kansas also have reservations about the death penalty. Governor John Kasich of Ohio has granted four commutations in capital cases, citing the need for fair trials, and Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas said capital punishment should be reserved for figures like Osama bin Laden. The author in The Economist contrasted these developments with Arkansas' former governor, Bill Clinton, who flew home from campaigning for president in 1992 to oversee an execution.  The article stated, "[T]he death-penalty debate has changed in ways that go beyond day-to-day politics. It is less loud and more sceptical, giving thoughtful governors room to question a policy that causes them anguish—because they think it arbitrary, ineffective and costly, and because they impose it."

Many States to Consider Death Penalty Abolition and Reform in 2013

As legislative sessions begin across the country, legislators in several states have proposed bills to abolish or reform the death penalty in 2013. In Alabama, Sen. Hank Sanders will introduce bills to abolish the death penalty, or alternatively to institute a series of reforms. “I believe the death penalty is not only unproductive but counter-productive,” he said. Texas will also consider a number of death penalty reform bills, including restrictions on certain types of evidence, and the creation of an innocence commission. Colorado Sen. Claire Levy is drafting a bill to abolish the death penalty. "We have increasing concerns about the possibility of executing an innocent person," said Levy. Kentucky Rep. Carl Rollins plans to propose a bill to replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole. In Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley has voiced support for a bill to end the death penalty and direct some of the money saved to murder victims' families. New Hampshire's Gov. Margaret Hassan also supports abolition, and a bill is likely to be introduced in that state. In Oregon, where Gov. John Kitzhaber instituted a moratorium on executions for the remainder of his term, Rep. Mitch Greenlick plans to introduce a bill beginning the process of abolishing the death penalty.

EDITORIAL: "End the Death Penalty in New Hampshire"

A recent editorial in the New York Times called for the end of the death penalty in New Hampshire. The editorial highlighted the case of Michael Addison, who is the only prisoner on the state’s death row. Addison was sentenced to death in 2008 for fatally shooting a police officer. The state Supreme Court recently held hearings for Addison, who is seeking a new trial or sentencing hearing because the original proceedings were unfair. According to the editorial, “The trial was held about 100 yards from the police department where the officer had served and the judge refused to move it to another part of the state. The jury was picked from the community that lined up for miles to show respect for the officer after his memorial service and the judge unduly restricted the defense's challenges for keeping off the jury people with their minds already made up.” The editorial concludes, “The Addison case demonstrates the extreme difficulty of applying the death penalty fairly, especially in a state that gets so little practice. The immorality of the punishment is made worse by its inequitable use. Justice will be much better served there by abolishing the punishment.”  Read full editorial below.

NEW VOICES: Growing Coalition Supports Repeal of New Hampshire Death Penalty

New Hampshire State Representative Renny Cushing (pictured), whose father and brother-in-law were murdered, is one of many members of the state's legislature who supports repeal of the death penalty. "Everyone is moving away from the death penalty. It’s clear New Hampshire isn’t in love with the death penalty. We haven’t executed anyone since 1939," Cushing said. New Hampshire's only death row inmate currently has an appeal before the state Supreme Court. A death penalty abolition bill passed the New Hampshire House in 2009, but was vetoed by the Governor. Governor-elect Maggie Hassan said she opposed expanding the death penalty and is expected to sign a repeal bill if it passes the legislature. Past efforts to end the death penalty in New Hampshire have crossed party lines. Republican Rep. Steve Vaillancourt sponsored a repeal bill in 2000 and has taken preliminary measures to abolish the death penalty this year. "New Hampshire’s a really strong libertarian state. There is a strong element in the state that doesn’t trust the government to collect taxes and plow roads," Cushing said. "And it certainly doesn’t want to give the government the power to kill people."

RESOURCES: Recent Legislative Acitivity on the Death Penalty

DPIC is collecting information on pending legislation related to the death penalty.  For example, at least nine states will consider bills to repeal the death penalty in 2012.  In California, a coalition called Taxpayers for Justice has been collecting signatures to place a death penalty repeal initiative on the ballot in November.  On January 25, the Washington Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on a bill to repeal the death penalty. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Debbie Regala, cited high costs as a reason for the bill: “We can keep the public safe with putting people in prison for the rest of their life, as opposed to the costly expense of executing them… It's always important and valuable for us to look at public policy and see if it's actually getting us the results that we want. When you're facing an economic crisis, you add an extra lens." Other states considering repeal bills are Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania. A few states, such as New Hampshire, have blls to expand the death penalty.