Man Charged With Killing Manchester Police Officer
POSTED: 11:35 am EDT June 15, 2007
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Lawyers for a man accused of shooting and killing a Manchester police officer argued that the state should abolish the death penalty because it "offends contemporary standards of decency" and amounts to "cruel and unusual" punishment.
New Hampshire has not executed anyone since 1939, but two men currently face capital murder charges.
Michael Addison, 27, is charged with shooting Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs in the head last October. The other, John "Jay" Brooks, is accused of hiring a man to help him kill Jack Reid in 2005.
In a motion filed Thursday in Hillsborough County Superior Court, Addison's lawyers said Massachusetts abolished the death penalty in 1980 as offensive to contemporary standards of decency, and that because New Hampshire's constitution is based on Massachusetts', it should do the same.
They also cited a general trend away from the death penalty, saying 56 countries have abolished it since 1980 and 13 states have halted executions since 2000.
"More and more states are executing fewer and fewer people," wrote David Rothstein, one of Addison's attorneys.
In fact, New Hampshire's founding document goes even further than the Massachusetts constitution, when it states that the purpose of punishment is "to reform, not to exterminate, mankind."
"That the framers of the New Hampshire Constitution chose to include this language must mean that (it) affords greater protection," Rothstein wrote.
Addison's lawyers have said they plan to attack the state's capital murder law from several angles, including arguing that black men are more likely than others to face execution. Addison is black; Brooks is white.
They also plan to argue that lethal injection is cruel and have already asked the state Supreme Court either to throw out the death penalty or stop court proceedings until it writes "appropriate rules" for appeals.
Although appeal of a death sentence is supposed to be automatic, the high court has never written rules detailing how such an appeal would work, as other recent cases have not gotten to that stage, Addison's lawyers said.
Without such rules, Addison's lawyers said it would be nearly impossible for them to build an effective case.