Death penalty under fire in Legislature
By The Associated Press
CONCORD - Two active cases have New Hampshire taking a fresh look at the
state's death penalty law.
The Legislature voted to repeal the law seven years ago, but then-Gov.
Jeanne Shaheen vetoed the bill.
A repeal bill failed in the House this spring, but only by 12 votes. A new
repeal attempt is expected in 2009.
The issue has taken on new prominence because prosecutors plan to seek the
death penalty in two pending cases: those of Michael Addison, accused of
murdering a Manchester police officer last fall, and John "Jay" Brooks,
accused of soliciting people to help him kill a Derry handyman in 2005.
"We're going to be doing much more soul searching in this state," said Rep.
James Splaine, D-Portsmouth, sponsor of the last two repeal bills.
The trials are expected to play out through 2008 and 2009.
The narrow capital murder law applies to a half dozen crimes, including
killing a police officer, murder for hire and killing someone during a
Prisoners who kill another while serving a life sentence, murder during a
rape and certain drug crimes also qualify.
But the state's last execution was in 1939, and the gallows at the state
prison were dismantled in the 1980s.
Splaine notes that two years ago, his repeal bill failed by 70 votes.
Death-penalty supporters say the ultimate punishment is needed, especially
for those who kill police officers.
"I guess I'm speaking from the perspective of a mother and grandmother, but
I feel like if someone takes another's life they shouldn't be able to have
visits from their mother in jail," said Rep. Laura Pantelakos, D-Portsmouth.
"The Bible says 'an eye for an eye.'"
Arnie Alpert is coordinator of the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the
"We need to help people get past the idea that if people aren't executed,
then somehow they're getting away with it," Alpert said.
Battles against the capital murder law are already under way in Addison's
case. His lawyers have filed 15 constitutional challenges to the law, which
they say was written without sufficient safeguards for the constitutional
rights of defendants.
Rep. David Welch, former chairman of the House Criminal Justice and Public
Safety Committee, said support for the death penalty has been receding in
Welch, a death-penalty supporter, said that might change if New Hampshire
actually put someone to death.
"Having an execution might turn people around and finally move them enough
to get rid of it," he said.
Source : Associated Press