Monday, 26 March 2007

Addison lawyers challenging death penalty

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Addison lawyers challenging death penalty

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) _ Lawyers for the man accused of killing a Manchester police officer last fall say they plan to challenge New Hampshire's death penalty, including raising questions still pending from the last challenge a decade ago.

Michael Addison is charged with capital murder in the death of Officer Michael Briggs. The state is seeking the death penalty.

His lawyers say execution by lethal injection or hanging is cruel and unusual punishment. They've asked the court for more time to pursue nearly two dozen arguments against the state's death penalty and capital murder procedures, and the death penalty in general, according to several motions filed Friday in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Manchester.

The public defenders also have asked that all pretrial hearings be held in public, on the record and in a courtroom outside of Manchester, where Addison would be shielded from photographers outside the courthouse while shackled and dressed in a prison jumpsuit.

''The stakes could not be higher,'' Addison's attorneys wrote. ''There is no other criminal case receiving greater media coverage. There is no other criminal case receiving more attention from the Manchester community.''

They argued that repeated publication of photos of Addison in prison clothes and shackles portray him as guilty and could hurt his chances of a fair trial.

They've asked that pretrial hearings be moved to Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua or Rockingham County Superior Court in Brentwood. At those courts, defendants in prison clothes and shackles can get in and out of police cars behind closed garage doors, out of view of cameras, before appearing in court in street clothes.

Addison, 27, has been held without bail since his arrest Oct. 16. He is charged with capital murder in the death of Officer Michael Briggs, 35. Addison is accused of shooting Briggs in the head after Briggs pursued him while investigating a domestic violence call.

The public defenders, Richard Guerriero, Donna Brown and David Rothstein, filed several motions on Friday.

They say they intend to argue that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment, citing a Florida case in which it took 34 minutes for a man to die by lethal injection.

And they plan to resurrect legal issues left unresolved from the state's last capital murder case. In 1997, Gordon Perry, 22, was charged with capital murder in the shooting death of Epsom Officer Jeremy Charron. Perry pleaded guilty to murder as part of a deal that spared him the death penalty.

Before the plea, his lawyers had filed 19 motions challenging the death penalty statute. The judge ruled on fewer than half of the motions before Perry began serving his life sentence.

Addison's lawyers argue the statute is unconstitutional because it denies Addison the right to choose whether a judge or jury will hear his case and determine his punishment.

And if Addison is convicted of capital murder, meaning he knowingly killed Briggs, his attorneys want jurors to determine whether the act was purposeful before they sentence him.

His trial is scheduled for September 2008.

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