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Letter: On the death penalty, where is Shaheen now?

The New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has announced a new effort to repeal the state’s capital punishment law. The renewed effort brought me back to May 19, 2000, the day New Hampshire’s first female governor, Jeanne Shaheen, used a mere 40 words to veto the repeal of New Hampshire’s death penalty.

The Republican House, under the leadership of Speaker Donna Sytek, had been told to vote its conscience and it did, passing the repeal 191-163. A few weeks later, the New Hampshire Senate followed suit, passing the repeal 14-10. If Shaheen had allowed the repeal to become law, New Hampshire would have led the nation, becoming the first state to reject the death penalty since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976.

Fast forward: Today there is only one person on New Hampshire’s death row, a young black man who unintentionally killed a cop (that finding was determined by the jury). In 2008, the same year the young black criminal was sentenced to “death,” a millionaire white criminal, who intentionally hired thugs to kill a handyman, was sentenced to “life” without parole.

Shaheen is running for re-election to the U.S. Senate, a position of leadership, influence and prestige. Politicians have been known to evolve on issues; perhaps it is time to inquire whether Shaheen’s bias in favor of the death penalty has changed now that we have evidence of New Hampshire’s interpretation of the law? Is it time to abolish when black equals death and white equals life without parole?



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