N.H. death penalty remains on the books as legislature fails to override veto

  • Flanked by police officers from several departments, Gov. Chris Sununu vetoes Senate Bill 593, which would have repealed the state's death penalty, June 21, 2018. Ethan DeWitt

For the Monitor
Published: 9/13/2018 4:21:34 PM

New Hampshire will stay among the 31 states with a capital punishment law remains on the books.

The state Senate failed on Thursday to override Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of a bill that would have abolished New Hampshire’s death penalty. The Senate voted 14-10 to overturn Sununu’s action, which was two votes shy of the 16 needed to override a gubernatorial veto.

Two Democrats from Manchester, Sens. Kevin Cavanaugh and Lou D’Allesandro, voted with eight Republicans to uphold the governor’s veto. The other eight Democrats in the chamber joined six Republicans in supporting a veto override.

“It’s a very narrow death penalty. It has been used in this state one time, in 1939. One time,” D’Allesandro argued in support of upholding Sununu’s veto.

Michael Addison, the only convict on death row in the state. Addison, who is black, is also the only defendant New Hampshire has sentenced to death in eight decades.

 John Breckinridge, a former Manchester police officer who was with officer Michael Briggs in 2008 when he was fatally shot by Addison, has argued in favoring of abolishing the death penalty.

Sen. Bob Guida (R-Warren) argued for an override of the veto, saying the “the death penalty is not a deterrent.”

“An eye for an eye is not what this country is about,” Guida added.

Sununu, speaking with reporters following the legislative session, said his position in support of the death penalty was backed up by the Senate’s failure to override his veto.

“We stood up with law enforcement, we stood up with the victims on those bills. We vetoed it. It was the right thing to do and that was affirmed today,” the governor explained.

Longtime death penalty opponent Rep. Renny Cushing (D-Hampton) said he’ll try again next year to abolish the state’s death penalty.

“Today, we got as close as we’ve ever gotten,” Cushing pointed out. “I’m confident they’ll be an effort next year to repeal capital punishment in the state.”

Because the Senate failed to override, the measure never made it to the House for its consideration.

Even though the law remains on the books, New Hampshire’s death penalty remains functionally nonexistent as the state has no facility or means to execute a prisoner.

The state has no drugs on hand to fulfill a lethal injection, according to Jeff Lyons, spokesman for the Department of Corrections. There are no protocols for how to obtain those drugs, where to obtain them, how to administer them, and the state has no existing chamber in which to carry an execution out.

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