New Hampshire

New Hampshire

Death Penalty Advocate Says Current Law Should Be Abolished

New Hampshire state representative Phil Greazzo, who has proposed a broad expansion of the death penalty, will also offer an alternative bill to abolish the death penalty entirely because it is so unfair.  Rep. Greazzo, a Republican, previously introduced legislation to expand the state's death penalty to include any intentional murder, maintaining the law should protect all people equally.  But he said he would rather have lawmakers do away with the punishment altogether than maintain the status quo.  The current law restricts the death penalty to certain murders, such as killing a law enforcement officer.  Greazzo pointed out the inconsistencies of the current statute saying, “If I hire someone to commit a murder for me, that would bring the death penalty.  If I did it myself, there's no death penalty. So the law is a little bit askew in fairness.”  In proposing both the expansion and repeal bills, Greazzo intended for lawmakers to consider a full range of possibilities for improving the current law.  He said, “Why not just have the argument once?  It's sort of a waste of time to have the conversation for years.”

STUDIES: Eyewitness Identification Comes Under Supreme Court and Scientific Scrutiny

The U.S. Supreme Court recently considered Perry v. New Hampshire, a case questioning the validity of eyewitness testimony when the identification was made under unreliable circumstances.  At the same time, years of scientific study on the accuracy of human memory are pointing to the need for reform in the use of eyewitness evidence in criminal cases.  Barbara Tversky, a psychology professor at Columbia University, whose experiments on memory were reported in the journal Cognitive Psychology, noted, “Memory is weak in eyewitness situations because it’s overloaded.  An event happens so fast, and when the police question you, you probably weren’t concentrating on the details they’re asking about.”  About 75% of DNA-based exonerations have come in cases where eyewitnesses have made mistakes.  Scientists suggest that witness testimony should be viewed more like trace evidence, with the same fragility and vulnerability to contamination.  Strong emotions felt by victims of a crime is one such possible area of contamination. Gary Wells, a psychology professor at Iowa State University, found that the accuracy of lineups improves when the possible suspects are presented to witnesses in sequence, rather than all at once, as in the traditional lineup. The downfall of side-by-side lineups, Dr. Wells said, is that “if the real perpetrator is not in there, there is still someone who looks more like him than the others.” The Supreme Court of New Jersey recently promulgated new rules for dealing with the problems of eyewitness identification.

DPIC RESOURCES: New State Pages Now Available

DPIC is pleased to announce the completion of our State Information Pages for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  These state profiles provide historical and current information on the death penalty for each state, including famous cases, past legislative actions, and links to key organizations and state officials.  For frequently updated information, such as execution totals, the size of death row, or the number of exonerations, see our State-by-State Database.  Readers are encouraged to send additional information, pictures, and links to organizations in their state.  You can reach the State Information Pages through the "State by State" button at the top of every page on our website or under the "Resources" tab in our main menu.

NEW RESOURCES: States Ranked by Executions Per Death Sentence

DPIC has updated its Executions Per Death Death Sentence page to reflect data through 2010.  This page lists states in order of the percentage of death sentences resulting in an execution since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.  If every death sentence resulted in an execution, the state would be at 100%, or a rate of 1.00.  Using this ratio of executions per death sentence, the first five states are Virginia (.725), Texas (.498), Utah (.368), Missouri (.347), and Delaware (.311).  Of those states that have carried out at least one execution, the five states with the lowest rate of execution are Pennsylvania (.008), California (.015), Idaho (.025), Oregon (.028), and Tennessee (.035).  Four states with the death penalty during this time period had no executions: Kansas, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York.  The latter two have abandoned the death penalty.  Nationally, about 15% of death sentences have resulted in an execution (a rate of .150).  Another measure of state execution rates is executions per capita (population).  Under this standard, Oklahoma and Texas are the leading states.

Jurisdictions with no recent executions

Although the United States is considered a death penalty country, executions are rare or non-existent in most of the nation: the majority of states—31 out of 50—have either abolished the death penalty or have not carried out an execution in at least 10 years. An additional 6 states have not had an execution in at least 5 years, for a total of 37 states with no executions in that time. Three additional jurisdictions (the District of Columbia, the Federal Government, and the Military) have not had an execution in at least 10 years.

EDITORIALS: New Hampshire's Concord Monitor Says "Abolish the Death Penalty"

Following the release of the report from the New Hampshire Commission to Study the Death Penalty, New Hampshire's Concord Monitor called for an end to capital punishment in the state. The Commission concluded a year of public hearings and careful study and chose by a 12-10 vote to recommend neither expanding nor abolishing the death penalty. However, the Monitor pointed out that the evidence presented to the commission was primarily in favor of repealing the death penalty. One of the many arguments against the death penalty considered by the Commission was its arbitrary nature. Outcomes of capital cases depend on the makeup of capital juries, the resources available to the defendant, and the potentially unequal skills of prosecutors and defense lawyers.  The editorial noted that former attorney general Phillip McLaughlin recalled a case in which he charged the wrong man with murder and another in which an investigator failed to share evidence that might have proved that someone else committed the crime. He voted to repeal the law.  The editorial concluded: "States are not infallible. A life wrongly taken by the state cannot be returned. But an innocent person serving life without parole can be freed. New Hampshire should join the states and the many nations that have progressed beyond capital punishment."  Read the full editorial below.

New Hampshire Study Commission Report on the Death Penalty

On Dec. 1, 2010, the New Hampshire Death Penalty Study Commission released its report to the governor.  The majority (12-10) report recommended neither the abolition nor the expansion of the death penalty.  The report did find that there is an added cost for the death penalty as compared to a life without parole sentence: "There is a significant difference in the cost of prosecution and incarceration of a first degree murder case where the penalty is life without parole as compared with the cost of a death penalty case from prosecution to execution. The Commission members believe that the greater cost associated with capital murder cases is essential to guarantee a vigorous defense, a thorough investigation and prosecution of the case, and careful adjudication of the case." Read the full report here.

New Hampshire Senate, Wyoming House Pass Bills to Ban Juvenile Death Penalty

Less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will reconsider the constitutionality of the death penalty for juvenile offenders, two state legislative bodies have passed measures to ban the practice. The New Hampshire Senate passed its bill to ban the execution of those who were under the age of 18 at the time of their offense on February 19, 2004. The measure now moves to the House, where a committee hearing and vote are expected in the coming weeks. The Wyoming House also passed a measure to ban the execution of juvenile offenders.

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