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N.H. Supreme Court hearing begins for Michael Addison’s death penalty sentence

Michael Addison is seen during his arraingment in Manchester District Court in   Manchester, N.H., Monday, Nov. 6, 2006. Addison was charged with gunning down Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs last month and could face the death penalty.(AP Photo/Dick Morin)

Michael Addison is seen during his arraingment in Manchester District Court in Manchester, N.H., Monday, Nov. 6, 2006. Addison was charged with gunning down Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs last month and could face the death penalty.(AP Photo/Dick Morin) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

The state’s Supreme Court began hearing the appeal of Michael Addison’s death penalty sentence this morning, with the first hour of arguments focusing heavily on whether the Manchester community was too affected by the 2006 murder of Officer Michael Briggs to provide a fair venue for the trial.

Defense attorney David Rothstein argued that after the murder community sentiment was high and media attention unprecedented, making it difficult to draw a fully impartial jury. He called Briggs of Concord a “one-of-a-kind police officer.” Justice Robert Lynn then asked if Briggs was particularly well known in the community before his death.

“He had gotten at least one special commendation for heroism,” Rothstein said.

Lynn clarified, saying he wondered if Briggs had been a public figure. Rothstein said he hadn’t been, but noted that the coverage of the officer’s funeral, which included a procession through Manchester and a memorial at a baseball stadium, was like nothing the community had ever experienced.

In response, Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Woodcock said that while the community had been clearly “interested” in the outcome of the case, the attention after Briggs’s murder hadn’t made it impossible to hold a fair trial. She used the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon as an example of a case that couldn’t have been fairly tried in the surrounding community because of pervasive public outrage

“There were certainly people who felt strongly about (Briggs’s murder). ... And there were some people ... who hadn’t really paid that much attention to it,” she said. “It’s not that kind of heart-stopping event, even though it’s a tragedy.”

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear 3½ hours of arguments on the appeal today. Read the Monitor tomorrow for more coverage.

(Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or tnadolny@cmonitor.com.)

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