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Former U.S. senator Kelly Ayotte, who prosecuted Michael Addison, angered by death penalty repeal

  • Senator Kelly Ayotte at the Monitor editorial board Friday. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff and wire reports
Published: 5/31/2019 4:45:57 PM

Former U.S. senator Kelly Ayotte reacted swiftly Thursday after state senators voted 16-8 to repeal the death penalty in New Hampshire and overturn Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto.

“Very disappointed and angry that the NH senate failed to sustain the Governor’s veto of the death penalty repeal,” Ayotte wrote on Twitter. “Police killer Michael Addison is the happiest about their vote today.”

As the state’s attorney general in 2007, Ayotte was the lead prosecutor in the case of Michael Addison, who killed Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006 and is the state’s only inmate on death row. While the bill ending capital punishment is not retroactive, its opponents argue Addison eventually will see his sentence converted to life in prison.

“NH senators chose to give Addison a pass for killing Officer Michael Briggs. Sad day for public safety in NH,” Ayotte tweeted.

As the bill to repeal the death penalty wound through the Legislature, it was opposed by the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police. When Sununu vetoed the bill early last month, he was flanked by several police officers, including Briggs’s son Mitchell, who is now a police officer in Grafton.

“Our law enforcement officers and their families deserve better than what they got today from NH senators who voted against sustaining the Governors repeal,” Ayotte wrote.

Before it’s repeal, New Hampshire’s death penalty applied to only seven scenarios: the killing of an on-duty law enforcement officer or judge, murder for hire, murder during a rape, certain drug offenses or home invasion and murder by someone already serving a life sentence without parole. Lawmakers have considered bills to repeal it every session for the last two decades. Former governor Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, vetoed a similar bill in 2000.

In a rare appearance before the Legislature, Ayotte testified against the bill this session.

“If you repeal the death penalty, I want you to understand that Michael Addison’s sentence will be commuted to life without parole, which would not be just and would send the wrong message to criminals when it comes to killing police officers in the state of New Hampshire,” Ayotte told the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Feb. 19.

She reminded lawmakers of the fact of the case against Addison – that the shooting happened after a crime spree that would have already been enough to put Addison in prison for life.

“What are we saying if you’re a career criminal who’s been on a crime spree and are already facing a life sentence and there’s no death penalty, no other punishment to impose? Why not, in that circumstance, unfortunately, kill the police officer? Because that’s what happened that night. That is why the jury imposed the death penalty,” she said.

“There should be a penalty for what happened to Officer Michael Briggs,” she said. “Our law enforcement officers deserve this protection and they deserve this deterrent.”

The Senate vote did not break evenly along party lines. Of the 16 votes to repeal, 12 came from Democrats and four came from Republicans. Of the eight votes to sustain the governor’s veto and keep the law on the books, six were Republicans and two were Democrats.

ROLL CALL Senators who voted yea:

■Shannon Chandley, Amherst Democrat

■Jeanne Dietsch, Peterborough Democrat

■Dan Feltes, Concord Democrat

■Harold French, Franklin Republican

■Martha Fuller Clark, Portsmouth Democrat

■Bob Giuda, Warren Republican

■Martha Hennessey, Hanover Democrat

■Jay Kahn, Keene Democrat

■Melanie Levesque, Nashua Democrat

■Jon Morgan, Brentwood Democrat

■John Reagan, Deerfield Republican

■Cindy Rosenwald, Nashua Democrat

■Tom Sherman, Rye Democrat

■Donna Soucy, Manchester Democrat

■Ruth Ward, Stoddard Republican

■David Watters, Dover Democrat

Senators who voted nay:

■Regina Birdsell, Hampstead Republican

■Jeb Bradley, Wolfeboro Republican

■Sharon Carson, Londonderry Republican

■Kevin Cavanaugh, Manchester Democrat

■Lou D’Allesandro, Salem Democrat

■James Gray, Rochester Republican

■Chuck Morse, Salem Republican

■David Starr, Franconia Republican

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