New Hampshire’s death penalty ended on May 30, 2019. Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed the bill repealing the death penalty passed by the Legislature, but legislators had enough votes to override the veto.
This does not change the fate of Michael Addison, New Hampshire’s sole death row inmate. The death penalty repeal applies only to cases after the repeal took place.
History of New Hampshire’s death penalty
Prior to the abolition of capital punishment in the Granite State, the death penalty could be sought in capital murder cases, which must involve:
- the murder of police and court officers,
- murder of judges
- murders for hire
- murders connected to drug deals, rape, kidnapping and home invasions.
Lethal injection was the primary form of execution. The last execution in New Hampshire (by hanging) was carried out in 1939.
Read our article on New Hampshire’s former death penalty law written by two experts with opposing viewpoints
Death penalty on the federal level
Each state can set its own policies for the death penalty, abolishing it entirely or imposing it for certain crimes. However, there is also a federal death penalty which can apply to certain offenses that fall under the federal government's jurisdiction.
Such crimes include terrorism offenses, murders committed in relation to major drug felonies, treason, robberies committed in federal jurisdictions, and more. Federal executions are much rarer than state executions.
The most recent effort in Congress to abolish capital punishment at the federal level was in 2021.
Is anyone on New Hampshire’s death row?
Michael Addison is the only person on New Hampshire’s death row. While New Hampshire has abolished its death penalty, the change does not apply to Addison’s case. He was convicted of the 2006 killing of police officer Michael Briggs in Manchester.
"New Hampshire was wrong to abolish the death penalty."
- The punishment must fit the crime. Some murders, like the intentional murder of a rape victim, are so depraved that capital punishment is the only proportional sentence available.
- It serves as a deterrent. Many scholars believe that capital punishment helps reduce homicide on a national level. Death penalty repeal sends an unfortunate message about our state's willingness to defend the rule of law.
- Cost is not an issue. When it comes to the cost of capital punishment, it is important to remember that capital murder cases arise infrequently in New Hampshire. They take up a relatively small proportion of the total resources expended on law enforcement, courts and indigent defense in any given year.
Based on points made by Charles Putnam, Co-Director Justiceworks UNH
"New Hampshire was right to repeal the death penalty."
- It is morally wrong. Faith leaders from many denominations have united in their opposition to the death penalty.
- The death penalty does not deter crime. A survey of experts from the American Society of Criminology, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, and the Law and Society Association found that 88% of the nation's top criminologists believe the death penalty is not a deterrent.
- The Criminal Justice System is not infallible, and as long as states impose the death penalty innocent people will be put to death. Since the U.S. reinstituted the death penalty in 1973, 139 wrongly convicted people have been released from death row.
- The death penalty costs significantly more than a life without parole sentence, in some estimates about 10 times the amount. This is because of the heightened process that the death penalty requires.
- The death penalty ignores the real needs of victims. Seeking the death penalty diverts millions of dollars of our scarce resources that could otherwise go into providing critical services to the family of homicide victims.
Based on points made by Barbara Keshen of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union
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