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Bill to Repeal NH Death Penalty Has Bipartisan Support

Nationally, more than 150 prisoners have been exonerated after being sentenced to death. (jodylehigh/Pixabay)
Nationally, more than 150 prisoners have been exonerated after being sentenced to death. (jodylehigh/Pixabay)
March 1, 2018

CONCORD, N.H. — Civil liberties advocates say this may be the year that New Hampshire repeals the death penalty. Senate Bill 593 would change the penalty for capital murder in New Hampshire from death to life without the possibility of parole.

Similar legislation passed the House in both 2014 and 2016, but failed to get through the Senate. But according to Jeanne Hruska, policy director with the New Hampshire ACLU, this time 13 senators have signed on as sponsors.

"Obviously it will be a big lift to get the bill enacted this session,” Hruska said. “But we're just really encouraged by the number of Senate sponsors and the level of bipartisan support that those sponsors represent."

Supporters of the death penalty claim it's an effective deterrent and point out that it is rarely used in New Hampshire.

There's only one prisoner on New Hampshire's death row, and he is the first since the 1930s. But Hruska maintains that decades of experience and analysis in other states show capital punishment has no place in any state.

"The death penalty is unfair, it's discriminatory, and it's fraught with error,” she said; “which is one of the reasons why we've seen over 150 people exonerated from death row across the country."

Passing Senate Bill 593 would not affect the death sentence for Michael Addison, convicted of killing a Manchester police officer in 2006.

Hruska said the next step for the bill will be a hearing in the Senate, which should take place in the next couple of weeks.

"Most likely this will get voted on pretty quickly thereafter,” she said. “We're hopeful that it will indeed pass the Senate and then go forward to a hearing in the House."

Gov. Chris Sununu has not weighed in on the bill but in 2016 he stated he favored keeping the current law in place.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NH