My Turn: Does killing Michael Addison honor Michael Briggs?
Today the New Hampshire Supreme Court will hear appeals in the case of murder of Michael Briggs. The New Hampshire Council of Churches is angry and saddened by the death of such a man. Briggs was a father, husband, veteran and police officer. He spent his life defending and protecting others and gave his life as his last full measure. In fact, in 2003 he saved the life of Michael Addison, the man who would end his, by administering CPR. Briggs gave his life giving life to others.
We might question the wisdom of a police officer saving the life of a man with such a horrible criminal record. What made this worth it?
We believe all life is sacred. There is no doubt that killing Briggs was a sin, and that Addison deserves to be punished. But is killing Addison the solution? Does this bring honor to Briggs who spent his life defending life?
We at the New Hampshire Council of Churches do not believe it is. Killing Addison will not stop our hurt, sadness or anger at this injustice. Killing people to prove that killing is wrong does not make sense.
The death penalty will not stop others from committing such crimes. It is unclear that Addison acted in premeditation or if he shot Briggs in the heat of the moment. People who take others’ lives do not stop to think about the consequences. The death penalty perpetuates violence and injustice instead of condemning such intolerable acts.
It has been reported that the state has paid in excess of $1 million in this case. It has now been six years since Briggs was killed. Has the money been worth it? Has this amount of time allowed for the community and family to heal?
The death penalty as practiced in American law is not in line with the biblical law concerning how it is to be administered.
For good reason, New Hampshire has not executed someone since 1939. We believe that sentencing Addison to life in prison without parole would have cost less money and taken less time, allowing the community to heal.
Since 2010 the New Hampshire Council of Churches has had a written policy against the death penalty. We believe that taking a life is wrong, and that the death penalty does not stop violent crime.
It wastes money and time, and does not end our anger or sadness. It is better to have justice administered faster and for communities to be able to mourn and heal. Killing someone dehumanize them and us. We pray for healing, restoration and peace.
(The Rev. Jonathan Hopkins is president of the New Hampshire Council of Churches.)