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New Hampshire Abolishes The Death Penalty

A legislative override of a governor’s veto on a bill to end the practice of capital punishment in the state of New Hampshire was successfully passed on Thursday, making that state the 21st in the nation without the death penalty on its books.

Photo by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via Getty Images

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu previously vetoed a bill that would have ended capital punishment in his state. The state’s House of Representatives passed an override of that veto earlier this month by the narrowest margins possible; the state Senate did the same on Thursday morning, attaining the two-thirds majority, 16-8 vote in favor of ending the practice, the Boston Herald reported.

New Hampshire has not carried out an execution of any prisoner since 1939. Only one person is currently on death row in New Hampshire.

Michael Addison was convicted of killing police officer Michael Briggs more than a decade ago. The legislation passed today does not specifically commute Addison’s sentence, and he may still face the death penalty as a result.

Opponents of the new law, however, say courts may interpret it differently.

“If you think you’re passing this today and Mr. Addison is still going to remain on death row, you are confused. Mr. Addison’s sentence will be converted to life in prison,” Republican state Sen. Sharon Carson warned.

Sununu’s veto came with a similar warning. “I firmly see along many folks across this state that this bill is an injustice, not just to Officer Briggs and his family but to law enforcement, and other victims of violent crime across this state,” he said, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.

But supporters have also expressed the passage of the bill as a good thing.

Repeal of the law “speaks to a long-term decline in support for capital punishment found not only in New Hampshire, but across the United States as a whole,” said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network, when the bill was initially passed in spring, per reporting from NCR Forward.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 20 states besides New Hampshire also do not punish capital crimes through the death penalty. Twenty-nine states do have the measure on their books, although four states currently have governor-imposed moratoria on the practice.



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