New Hampshire Almost, Almost Bans The Death Penalty, But Is Stopped By A Single Vote
On Thursday, New Hampshire’s Republican-controlled Senate voted 12-12 on a measure that would repeal the New Hampshire death penalty — in other words, leaving the practice intact by one vote. The measure came after the Democratic House voted in favor of repeal, with Governor Maggie Hassan promising to sign the measure into law should it pass in the Senate.
In the State Senate, Republicans outnumber Democrats 13 to 11, and tie votes are looked at as defeats. In this vote, 2 republicans voted for the repeal, while 1 Democrat voted against it.
That only one person is on death row in the state muddies up the purity of the proceedings. The inmate, Michael Addison, was convicted of shooting to death a Manchester police officer in 2006. In January of this year, the fallen officer's partner, John Breckinridge, published an op-ed in the Concord Monitor opposing the death penalty for Addison:
…It became clear to me that as a Catholic I could not justify the very pre-meditated act of executing someone who - for all the evil of his crime and all the permanent hurt he caused others - still lives, like Saint Paul did, in the possibility of spiritual redemption.
New Hampshire is currently the only state in New England where the death penalty is still legal. Repealing the statute would make New Hampshire the 19th state to ban capital punishment.
The state has executed 26 people in its history. The last time the state took advantage of the measure was in July of 1936 when Howard Long, a pedophile and murderer, was hanged. The rope used is still on display in the Belknap County Sheriff's office.
State lawmakers seem to be sympathetic to the argument that prosecutors need the death penalty for increased leverage when negotiating plea bargains. The theory is that criminals will be more likely to accept harsher sentences such as life in prison without parole if the death penalty is brought up as an option.
However, a 2012 report by the National Research Council found that studies claiming that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on murder rates are "fundamentally flawed" and should not be considered when making policy decisions. Additionally, when police chiefs were asked to rank the factors that they see as reducing the rate of violent crime, they ranked the death penalty as the least effective. Much more effective, they argued, was enforcing gun control, putting more officers on the street, and curbing drug use.
Capital punishment supporters have been losing traction as the practice is revealed to be prohibitively expensive, racially biased, and fraught with errors. According to figures from the ACLU, since 1973, over 140 people have been released from death rows in 26 states because of innocence.
New Hampshire Sen. Russell Prescott said in an interview that he made a "gut level" decision to oppose the bill. Russell ultimately concluded that he would rather let jurors decide the fate of convicted murderers, saying, "When a person goes against the value of societies, there are consequences."