CONCORD, N.H. — Led by former state Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick, New Hampshire death penalty opponents pressed for repeal at a marathon Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Thursday.

More than 50 people, including the relatives of murder victims, former prosecutors and retired police officers, urged repeal. Less than a dozen spoke in favor of keeping the death penalty intact, including representatives of four police agencies, who called capital punishment a “strategic tool” to deal with the worst of criminals.

The state is now the closest to repealing the death penalty that it’s been since 2000, when both houses of the Legislature approved a proposal but then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vetoed it.

Last month, the House passed a repeal measure 225-104. Its outcome in the 18-member, Republican-controlled Senate is too close to call, lawmakers said.

Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan has said she supports ending capital punishment in New Hampshire as long as it is does not affect the death sentence of Michael Addison, who was convicted of killing Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in 2006. The bill applies only to cases going forward, and its sponsors say it would not erase Addison’s sentence.

Addison is the only convict on death row in New Hampshire and his would be the state’s first execution since 1939. Though the bill applies to future cases, a federal judge might decide to commute Addison’s sentence if the measure is passed, said Kensington Police Chief Michael Sielicki, head of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police.


“We cannot let that happen,” he said.

At the hearing, Broderick, now dean of the University of New Hampshire School of Law, said he once reluctantly supported the death penalty but now believes judges shouldn’t administer any sentence “that doesn’t come with an eraser.”

His comments marked the first time he has taken a public stand on the death penalty, and he stressed he was speaking for himself and not the institutions he’s headed.

He said New Hampshire has no business being in the company of North Korea, Iran and Iraq in endorsing death sentences.

“We’re better than that, as a people and as a nation,” Broderick said.

“We value human life, even the lives of those who do evil things. I hope New Hampshire does not miss this opportunity to stand up and stand out in the 21st century.”


Four of the six states that have repealed capital punishment in the past six years did so prospectively and left convicts on death row, Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, told the committee.

Many senators are making up their minds, said Rep. Renny Cushing, the bill’s sponsor. “It’s very fluid,” he said.

Both Cushing’s father and brother-in-law were murdered, but Cushing, a Hampton Democrat, said he has not let their deaths shake his opposition to the death penalty. “That would give the killer more power,” he said.

Bud Welch, whose 23-year-old daughter was among the 168 people killed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, told the committee that the execution of Timothy McVeigh only “revictimized” the families of his victims.

“Nothing about that process brought me any peace,” said Welch, who estimates he’s come to New Hampshire to testify against the death penalty at least seven times, including in 2000. Said Welch: “I plead with you, to make this my last trip to New Hampshire on the death penalty.”

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