New Hampshire reopens death row

January 8, 2009

FOR THE first time since 1959, the state of New Hampshire has a prisoner on death row--28-year-old Michael Addison, a Black man convicted of shooting Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in 2006.

The jury took two days to deliberate and unanimously voted to sentence Addison to death on December 18. Earlier during the trial, the jury ruled that Addison purposefully shot Briggs but did not purposefully kill him.

Compare this with another New Hampshire capital murder case decided weeks before Addison's trial opened: the case of John Brooks, a wealthy white New Hampshire businessman who was convicted of planning, along with two associates, the murder of handyman Jack Reid in 2005. Brooks received life imprisonment and is seeking to have his conviction overturned.

The contradiction is not lost on Democrats in the state House of Representatives, who have been behind legislative efforts to repeal New Hampshire's death penalty laws. Those efforts, however, have been frustrated by the veto of former Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and a threatened veto by current Democratic Gov. John Lynch.

What's more, the elections in November saw Republicans pick up 17 House seats, making it highly unlikely that the death penalty laws will be repealed any time soon.

On top of the costs that the state will spend on handling Addison's appeals process, the state must now also set aside funds for constructing and maintaining both a death row and an execution chamber, neither of which have been in existence since the death penalty was overturned in 1972.

Anti-death penalty activists can't afford to wait for a friendly majority in the New Hampshire state government. We need to organize a grassroots campaign for a moratorium in New Hampshire and connect it with the national anti-death penalty movement to bring pressure to bear from below.

This is the best way to make sure that New Hampshire's last execution--in 1939--remains just that: its last.
Jeff Skinner, from the Internet

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