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BREAKING: N.H. Supreme Court affirms Michael Addison’s conviction, but no final decision yet on death sentence

Michael Addison is seen during his arraignment in Manchester District Court in Manchester, N.H., Monday, Nov. 6, 2006.

(AP file)

Michael Addison is seen during his arraignment in Manchester District Court in Manchester, N.H., Monday, Nov. 6, 2006. (AP file)

The state Supreme Court today upheld Michael Addison’s conviction for capital murder but did not pass final judgement on his death sentence, saying additional review is needed.

In a 243-page ruling released at 1 p.m., the high court affirmed Addison’s conviction for fatally shooting Michael Briggs, a Manchester police officer, in October 2006.

But the court said it requires additional time and information before ruling on whether the death sentence was a proportional penalty given other, similar cases.

The vote was 5-0.

“With respect to the issues raised by the defendant on appeal, we find no reversible error. Accordingly, we affirm the defendant’s conviction for capital murder,” the court wrote in its unsigned per curiam opinion. “Furthermore, we conclude that the sentence of death was not imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice or any other arbitrary factor, and that the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s findings of aggravating circumstances.”

But, the justices added, “We note that our review of the defendant’s sentence is not yet complete. Only after additional briefing and oral argument on comparative proportionality … will we conclude our review of the defendant’s sentence of death, at which time we will issue a further opinion.”

Addison, now 33, was convicted of capital murder in November 2008 and sentenced to death a month later for killing Briggs, a 35-year-old Concord father of two, in the line of duty.

He was the first person sentenced to death in New Hampshire for killing a police officer, and would be the first person executed by the state since 1939.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Addison’s appeal a year ago. Yesterday’s order is available here.

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UPDATE, 1:46 p.m.

One of Addison’s defense attorneys, David Rothstein, said in a statement this afternoon that his defense team disagrees with the court’s decision but looks forward to the next phase of the appeal.

“We disagree with the court’s decision to affirm Michael Addison’s capital murder conviction and with its conclusion that there was no reversible sentencing phase error,” he wrote in an email. “We look forward to the opportunity to address the proportionality of the death sentence, and we will work as diligently on Mr. Addison’s behalf in the future as we have over the last several years.”

Attorney General Joe Foster’s office said in a statement that it’s withholding any extended comment for the time being:

“It has been more than seven years since Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs was killed in the line of duty. We recognize that his family, friends, and co-workers continue to suffer from his loss, and they still feel the pain of his absence as a husband, father, son, brother, and dedicated Manchester Police Officer.

“We must also be sensitive to the fact that our office is currently involved in litigation in other related cases and with other issues involving this defendant. Therefore, our comments about the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s decision today must be limited.

“That decision is lengthy and complicated, which is appropriate given the magnitude of the loss the Briggs family has suffered and the penalty allowed by the law. We will be reviewing the decision in the coming weeks to determine its full ramifications and to consider the next appropriate steps in seeking justice in this case.”

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For full coverage of today’s decision, see tomorrow’s Monitor.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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